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PassENGER Piczeon (Male) 

Ectopistes migratorius 

The original 

From the original painting, dated 1835, by William Pope. 

y and is reproduced by their permission. 

zs in the Toronto Public Librar 

Contribution No. 7 of the Royal Ontario Museum of Zoology 









“And pigeons darkening many a mile 
Roar like a tempest o'er the wood.” 

_ (Alexander Wilson.—‘‘The Pilgrim”) 




Who over a period of years has collected 
and generously donated to the Royal Ontario 
Museum of Zoology the majority of the speci- 
mens of Ectopistes migratorius in its possession. 





RPE MIRE GIR, Bh Tet. y. Ps a ow 0 oa HES 44d ea a 11 

Beate Mea Maes BCL TRO TRES 85 Melia ics oe 26.4 TSh oa have das Vn alw aoa e Qing Demat 12 

Pee eNS ITO! PIFEONSs <n. so coe cs cna va a sw wohl levee 13 

PORE TSA Se RWIS iS 26. Dery cairn ap al 49 4. owen. af cece abe napa eaaaee 14 
Romeauvemzical.eyidernce of Origin... .. 2. os eats ca bench 14 
CC oor c ew £4 ess Shas hi Baa ee ge 15 

Ree EO EI OA Se sa), « a dad 4 od, SR he a 15 

MORO OR ORICGSia'. ck cee 6 oa va vs 9 ood ats Seve eh pe eae ce Li 
Rm ire plas ccc meets Sales 0 i hw | oS apdgns-%s aacaubere Oeeak Man ee tae OE 18 
Distribution in Canada (with reference to Ontario)............. 22 
: RP AAG CEN ofc ueg es, hee ss eet ok a bag clean nee 25 
Peale Or MeSiNe COLONIES | hc os ue doce els we ob SE ae ge eee ee 27 

MRO ME CIOS hehe sigs siecle io eet Bite na cea eee he 42 

ery IAC se at). parts ofe aur era dh mccale nathan aeneeenE 43 
; Bies fOmOntane MeStiNGS. «ods: sss a bayesian wee Bee 43 
Dietribution of Nesting pigeons.........-. 6.42. ws1 hed 2a ee 44 
Distributon of nesting colonies in Ontario................. 44 

Gee OIeMES CIN SITES fore: ine sce Sen, os Sl ae ae ee eee 45 

Use of nesting site for several years...................005. 47 

| iceton mesting sites aS KOOStS. .-. co. -o)6 4 sss « ede eat ae 47 
| Brame rae eaeitDrlOMs: 3.05 01004 sh. od a ace w bine ecg ee eee en 47 
| Meme ek sc Re oes i ee ee 49 
| 1 TS TCT UI Glee 8 Se eka eT er RES Us Se See 49 
| mes OCMC ir Bits. 5 ooo eS eT hw bye vce ome ee ee 49 
| OCU SU F015 ee a a PRN ae ree A yn rk sho 49 
| "EEE CY oS a Ae ee ed in GL Ss | 50 
J. Fic ol SSeS) at6t 016 [ee Sn ea RE ers Nw oe 50 
Occumenee,..:.....- Os LE Ra MINED Dieter et og 51 

Wy reeiiomioy OL OCCUTEENCE. oe i. 5 ods a 0s cre a eee 51 

Mattlecme occurrence TECOrds . 2 6. a a, Says ns a 52 

iieenecion of Outario disthipution... 2.2... 7. ae es ee ee 59 

“55 TRIE T 11S eae tT me am aE, SOA et 62 

“2ST SOU TSd Sse ln ee Ans; ee Oe 

(atic of micratiom MigNts. c.g eas oe es ne 65 

omimetits OM wmierabion TiPhts. . i. 2.00... 05 Guar: ha eae peer 80 

ameter PANTO ETON. 9p eo nace" ss yar boo nee ep geese oa SR 80 


Fall witeration.)-05 0.5. ag oc dee la eee 
Formation. 0: ..v 44 AA TES Ee ees ee 

Artival and departure }..6 2 0h os as ee ee ee eee 
SOCINE: ALTIO Al. 808 Se ee eee a Gea 
abi OF arrivals 2200 oes Taal eee ee ee ee 
Fall aeparcure: (3) vo P92 Pe Be eee 

Pay Mints see cdo ee 8 eee Serer ate ee 
Relation to brodding P28) Agee en easier 
Fights for food and "waters fd foe ee oe 
Table-ol. dealy thobts:: oi). 0-259 oo Be ee 

arly references i) ct. ou. st poop eee Pa ee ape ee 
Pood eaten in Ontarios c24 fee er a 

Jit SOrinigt Tesh de ob Cala cee Pees oie on oe eee 
Iit-summer. 2 2050 1 eos 2) ae et ee 

Ber Ureunn? FF a ce oes erent ee ane eee ee 

List of plants from ‘botanical literature. .: 2. 3... 02... ae oe 
Feeding habits :)¢ cl ae igi. ter ne ee ee aaa ae 

FUR G@MOMME SEAEUS. 6.5 oy oti rccspn tans gon Bar nao enecay, 6 Coan eee ee 

MOTE AS MOOR oe ey state aks ssn ee ee Sg he aaa) ae ee ee 
Tia EINE PIOHCETS 25> 4 se ees ssa ea nee eee 
TO the Todas rae ees ee ee Ee ee 
Methods of preparation... sic 2) 2.0) eee 
seal feathers br obo aed woe e sc echee 2 6 eee ee 
Niedicinall sesi oe.) Fy een ec eg ben oe 
Markeline-Gl qoi@eOns. A. %..00 0 eas 2 ote ca pe eee 

PON TELIO. 208 le ee ee en eee 

Gap SNOOMNOt af a..4 sysname a he ee 

Pn Cain dans 059, eo nee a eels oa ee 
Niethods of taking pigeons... .0eich ee pots oe, pees Sue ed ae eee 
Barly relerencesig... ss uke < aaeks ok een ae ne 
Bows and. arrows... 0s 2 far Mew ee ARs oe al eee 
ShOOthne 6. 20K jd det eS ee 2 ee ee ee 
INGGHMS,. oc. the Gs ul eee Ga di ey eo a ee eee 
Netting in Ontario. 2.5 ..45 Tou. oe oe ee ee ee 

APC ANAC a hand 40. oe Ree a pee Nestle eee ee a 

Other methods... ... ),.«c. Ae ee eee eee 7 





RIAU IGIERITICOUEEINOELG, <.-- 5 Gah ve acy isoa dx aces Binns kaon see 4, 0a SARE ¢ 129 
Be ere SLELNUNSLION: 6.456. goo es Dew too be ero ates eee 130 
Theory of sudden disappearance a fallacy.................. 130 
Bie arcane iy ONtariG is 1. 6 od oe ho ve a eee ee 131 
Last: reported appearances in Ontario... .........¢).la00.4.. 132 

Se aeesencine TOrextermination...« 04.02.61 vee ee 7 
rege IMAEGIALe CAUSE: os s6 . 0 us os Ceo Weems were 137 
Meu MOAI in a a kan & od ev Phe eee ee 139 

| E25 SS a ee ee ane oe ae Pe MI got eK a6 ert 141 
amc cestcuction:-of the species... 4.5... Jes seve ee 142 
eta eee PAVSU TORS, Vo cel 0 so. bases e's 9 Sv Waly oe hid Dace etengane om a 143 
Contemporary opinions on extermination.................. 144 
ARM 2 NI ge Se ak) ices ach ws Sp pS eee 147 
i ON 08, echt al aes, doo. dk Pcs hiatdals & So a Satan hee, Pol ae 148 
MePeinicis iy CmariO, CONeCTIONS » :...2:).'4.... «Ps eset ie Se ey 150 
Rs tet ERIE CID cere ea Sr | Fe octet tosh resonance ma! soars! aha oak ete ae eee 153 
TOE aM as to Boake ohc sth a cet, og SPR ee ee 162 


ee eet SOM eee 6), 2 es Ee a keg n'a) Revere al ae ee FRONTISPIECE 
Photograph of Royal Ontario Museum Habitat Group........... 10 
Wie a GES ISERIIUTON «. 2 5a bw coeies os we iste ake bE ining Pos 23 
Pins pe meeING a LIMO INCCONOG? i cy, tt dns ADR wads Bess Owes 26 
Ria a ECU RmeMCeINCCOLGS: oly see oa sb Peal eb wield oud 58 
NFS) Castle BE Grecia ices ALG) 1 0 eS ean a ee ar ae 81 
Map 5. Fall Migration........ PR a ke 5 Pee Beinn a sine 3, 8 ede 83 
AiGvestibeiiente Oy Pigeom. Dram... 2.8 vie ee eck shies Nos ea ae. 13 
AGgwericement.o. Pigeon Shooting Match.'!..):. 022. .au vr. ee 118 
Simi ee ACE OU me Mire ne Vn a ek dies oo en ae 121 
Pret er G is VeulIne NIEtNOG 98 05 Ok ac aon bite wo tyne ae 125 

Migeeainr ot Tectia VECUNOG iui sc ene ae Bee ete, 126 





Oe of the most fascinating chapters in the annals of North Ameri- 
can wild life is filled by the history of the passenger pigeon. 

Occurring in numbers that seem to have exceeded those of any 
other bird of which we have record, the species would command the 
attention for that reason alone, even without the additional fascination 
of being now extinct. 

We have to-day this history complete, and it is possible to trace it 
from misty beginnings in the Pleistocene to the death of the last survivor, 
Martha, who died at the age of about twenty-five in the Cincinnati 
Zoological Garden in 1914. 

Much has already been written of these birds, beginning with accounts 
from early travellers and pioneers and ending with the more scientific 
records of such men as Forbush and Barrows. However, nothing as 
exhaustive as this monograph has ever been attempted. W.B. Mershon 
and J. C. French made valuable collections of information for their 
respective States of Michigan and Pennsylvania, but as they themselves 
assert they were both simply interested and enthusiastic laymen. It is 
felt, therefore that the present work has a definite contribution to make 
to the knowledge of an extinct species. It not only preserves such 
information as we have concerning passenger pigeons in the province 
of Ontario, but it also covers rather fully several aspects of the birds’ 
life-history which have before been only touched upon. Enumerating 
the most important, they are: food; northern limits of occurrence and 
nesting; variation in numbers; fixed migration routes, and finally, a new 
theory of extermination which divests former theories of much of their 
uncertainty and mystery. 

This breadth of scope was not definitely realized when the work was 
begun. In 1926 the Royal Ontario Museum of Zoology issued a question- 
naire, as a means of assembling information on the subject of wild pigeons 
from Ontario residents who remembered them. It was distributed 
widely in the province and a mass of detail was obtained in the answers. 
At first it was thought that the mere tabulation of these answers would 
be sufficient, but it was gradually realized that much more supplementary 
material was to be found in early Canadian and American literature. 
Then as data were obtained from these various sources and arranged, it 
was further apparent that sufficient reliable information warranted the 



making of certain statements and the formulation of theories as enu- 
merated above. 

The plan of this book is based roughly on the Museum questionnaire, 
that is, the order of the subject headings follows that of the questions. 
The information derived from the questionnaires is, wherever possible, 
supplemented by extracts or information from the literature. Also 
several extracts and one or two articles deemed sufficiently important are 
to be found in an appendix together with a copy of the questionnaire. 


The Royal Ontario Museum of Zoology wishes to express its gratitude 
to all those who have answered questionnaires or have in any way con- 
tributed information, and the author wishes to thank the members of the 
Museum staff who have been most kind in giving both informative and 
critical assistance. 



There are distributed throughout the world about five hundred species 
of pigeons which are divided into five main families, to the second of 
which, the Columbidae, belong the dozen or more species to be found in 
North America. Of these only three occur north of the more southern 
States—the band-tailed pigeon (Columba fasciata fasciaia), a western 
species confined to the Pacific coast—the mourning dove (Zenaidura 
macroura), more eastern in its distribution—and the passenger pigeon 
(Ectopisies migratorius) with the widest range of all, occurring once from 
the Mackenzie District to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Rocky 
Mountains to the Atlantic seaboard. 

The passenger pigeon’s relationship to other pigeons was indicated 
by the possession of many of the usual characteristics of appearance and 
habit common to the family. Its beak and feet were slim and weak in 
proportion to its size; its plumage was thick and sleek, exhibiting the 
usual iridescence on the sides of the neck. Its nest was crudely con- 
structed; the eggs, white; the young altricial and fed with regurgitated 
curd. It drank (as do pigeons distinct from all other birds) without 
lifting the head, and fed largely upon vegetable material—fruit, seeds 
and grain. 

In general appearance the passenger pigeon differed considerably from 
practically all others of the family, being slimmer and more pleasingly 
proportioned. This was due to its tail, which, in distinction from the 
rather short, square tail of the majority of pigeons, was long and definitely 
pointed, and balanced the heaviness through the shoulders which is so 
characteristic of pigeons in general. . 

The nearest relative of the passenger pigeons’ (Ectopistes migratorius) 
is the mourning dove (Zenaidura macroura), and there is a distinct resem- 
blance between the two. Their build is similar; they possess, pro- 
portionately, the same length of neck, giving the sloping shoulder outline, 
the same long pointed tail, and the same slim, trim aspect of the whole 
body. A comparison of the two will show, however, a distinct difference 
in colouration, the passenger pigeon being, even in the female, more 
brightly and definitely coloured, while the softer shades of the mourning 
dove blend almost imperceptibly one into another. There was also a 
considerable difference in size between the two, the wild pigeon measuring 
about sixteen inches while the dove is only about eleven inches long. 
There were other differences: the wild pigeon seems to have been a more 



vigorous and dashing bird with few of the accepted dove-like ways; it was 
noisy and its notes were loud and decisive, not soft and crooning as are 
the mourning dove’s. Indeed it might appear significant that one is 
called a pigeon and the other a dove, but this is evidently of no import- 
ance scientifically. _Newton’s Dictionary of Birds (139) says: ‘‘No sharp 
distinction can be drawn between Pigeons and Doves, and in general 
literature the two words are used almost indifferently, while no one 
species can be pointed out to which the word Dove, taken alone, seems 
to be absolutely proper.”’ 

Ectopistes seems to have been unique among pigeons and doves in 
its habit of nesting in huge colonies in which the birds were closely con- 
gregated. Other species of pigeons have often distinct breeding areas 
where nests are found commonly throughout the trees but none seems 
to nest habitually in such a congested manner as did the passenger 

The huge flocks of this species were its greatest claim to distinction. 
They were unequalled in their enormous size and also in the fact that 
they were maintained to a greater or less degree practically throughout 
the whole year. Other pigeons exhibit nearly always a tendency to 
gather in flocks after the nesting season is over, and to wander about 
the country in this way during the autumn and winter, but the passenger 
pigeon flocked at all seasons of the year and, in the more northern part 
of its range, in flocks of larger size in the spring than in the fall, thus 
reversing the custom of the family as a whole. 


Ectopistes migratorius formerly occurred throughout eastern North 
America, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Mackenzie river valley and 
from the Atlantic seaboard to the Rocky Mountains. Its range is given 
in the American Ornithologists’ Union check list (3) as: ‘Bred formerly 
from middle western Mackenzie, central Keewatin, central Ontario, 
central Quebec, and Nova Scotia south to Kansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, 
Pennsylvania and New York. Wintered principally from Arkansas and 
North Carolina south to central Texas, Louisiana and Florida. Casual 
west to Oregon, Nevada, Washington, and eastern Mexico; accidental in 
Bermuda, Cuba, the British Isles and Europe.”’ 


It is fascinating to speculate on the origin and history of such a wide 
spread and extravagantly numerous species—when were they at their 
maximum and how many years did it take them to attain it? Had the 


Indians known them in greater numbers than existed on the arrival of 
the white man? Palaeontological evidence shows pigeons to have been 
cosmopolitan since the Miocene, and a fossil dove is reported by Wetmore 
from beds ascribed to the Upper Pliocene of southern Arizona, so that it 
seems probable that North American pigeons had their origin many 
hundreds of thousands of years ago. In fact Dr. Wetmore says (188): 
“It is my belief that these two ages (Miocene and Pliocene) mark the 
period of evolution of our modern genera of birds, and that there has 
come comparatively little change in generic type since. . . .From some- 
what meagre information I am inclined to regard the close of the Tertiary 
as the period of greatest diversity and abundance in bird life in the earth’s 
history so far as North America is concerned, and to believe that with 
the rigors of climate incident to the opening of the Pleistocene, and even 
more unfavorable conditions of the historic part of the Recent Period 
occasioned by the increase of man over the earth, there has been steady 
reduction and extermination among birds, a process that will continue 
in spite of protective regulation until most of the peculiar forms have 
disappeared and only the more adaptable ones remain.”’ 

Shufeldt (158) has identified several bones of Ectopistes migratorius 
from the Pleistocene deposits of the Bone Caves of Tennessee, showing 
that it was established as a species in that period, and from Wetmore’s 
suggestions may have been so for several hundreds of thousands of years. 
It has therefore had a long span of life, and it is strange to think that we 
to-day may look back to those dim beginnings which were taking place 
perhaps before even the red man came to America and may also see, 
within the memories of many of us, the writing of the last chapters of the 
species’ history. 

Faslern America 

Since ‘‘turtle doves’’ and ‘‘wood pigeons’ were first mentioned by 
Jacques Cartier (16) as occurring in 1534 on what is now Prince Edward 
Island, there have been many and varied accounts of the passenger 
pigeon, ranging from mere references to such famous descriptions as 
those of Wilson (191) and Audubon (9). The majority of these concern 
the birds in their southern range, so that it may be more pertinent here 
to quote from such early accounts as have been found of them in Canada, 
understanding, of course, that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries 
Canada had somewhat different boundaries from those of the present. 

In the ‘‘Jesuit Relations’’ (176) of the seventeenth century there are 
many references to the pigeon, the earliest being an account of its abun- 
dance in Acadia in 1610 (176a). In Le Jeune’s Relation of 1636-37 


(176d) he says: ‘‘In one season the turtle doves are sometimes found in 
such abundance that the end of their army cannot be seen when they 
are flying in a body; at other times in the same season they appear only 
in small flocks. . . .Our Savages are like them in this inconstancy.”’ 

The Relation of 1662-63 (176f) gives a description of a ‘‘Journey 
from the Entrance to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence up to Montreal’’ and 
quotes from an unknown writer: ‘‘“Among the birds of every variety to 
be found here, it is to be noted that Pigeons abound in such numbers 
that this year one man killed a hundred and thirty-two at a single shot. 
They passed continually in flocks so dense, and so near the ground that 
sometimes they were struck down with oars. This season they attacked 
the grain fields where they made great havoc, after stripping the woods 
and fields of strawberries and raspberries which grow here everywhere 
under foot. But when these Pigeons were taken in requital they were 
made to pay the cost very heavily; for the Farmers, besides having 
plenty of them for home use, and giving them to their servants, and even 
to their dogs and pigs, salted caskfulls of them for the winter.”’ 

In later accounts pigeons are often referred to as being more numerous 
inland than at the seaboard, but there is much early evidence which 
shows that they were at one time quite as plentiful on the coast. Nicolas 
Denys (77a), describing a meadow on the lower part of a river emptying 
in the Bay of Chaleur, says: ‘‘On it are also a great quantity of Straw- 
berries and Raspberries and here collects so great a number of Pigeons 
that it is incredible. I once remained there eight days toward the feast 
of St. Jean [June 24] during which every morning and evening we saw 
flocks of them passing, and of these the smallest were of five to six 
hundred. . . .They did not remain on the ground more than a quarter 
of an hour at most, when there came other flocks of them to rest in the 
same place; the first ones then arose and passed along. I leave you to 
imagine whether they were not killed in quantities, and eaten in all 

Even one hundred years later they were still abundant at the sea- 
board. Campbell (86) says concerning New Brunswick: “. . .of pigeons, 
in the season, may be seen from any eminence 10,000 flocks, or as far 
as the eye can reach.”’ 

Lake Champlain was at this time in ‘“‘Canada”’ and the entertaining 
Baron de la Hontan (177) tells of being near this lake in September, 
1686: “After which we resolved to declare War against the Turtle-Doves, 
which are so numerous in Canada, that the Bishop has been forc’d to 
excommunicate ’em oftner than once, upon the account of the Damage 
they do to the Product of the Earth. With that view, we imbarqued 
and made towards a meadow in the neighbourhood of which, the Trees 



were cover'd with that sort of Fowl, more than with Leaves: For just 
then 'twas the season in which they retire from the North Countries, 
and repair to the Southern Climates; and one would have thought, that 
all the Turtle-Doves upon Earth had chose to pass thro’ this place. For 
the eighteen or twenty days that we stay’d there, I firmly believe that 
a thousand men might have fed upon ’em heartily, without putting 
themselves to any trouble.”’ 

In a later edition (91) there is a more detailed passage which is 
interesting to compare with the one already quoted; the contents are 
practically the same but the old French has a certain spice that is lost 
in the translation. ‘‘Pour changer donc de victuaille en gens d’honneur, 
et sans dégénérer, nous conjurdmes la ruine des tourterelles. Cette 
espéce est une des plus fécondes qu'il y ait en Canada; elle y fourmille: 
C’est bien ici ot la Prophetie du Berger de |’Egloque s’accomplit a la 
lettre, ‘la tourterelle ne cessera de pousser ses gemissemens de dessus 
l’Orme, nec gemere aéria cessabit turtur ab ulmo.’ Croiriez-vous que ces 
Oiseaux nous pillent ici, tant il yena? On est contraint de les exorciser 
comme si c’étoient les legions de Diable, et il n’y a pas encore long-tems 
que notre Monseigneur |’Evéque fut contraint de les foudroyer a grosses 
goutes d’eau benite, pour le falut des biens de la terre.’ 

Peter Kalm (81), the Swedish naturalist, after his travels through 
America, wrote an excellent article on the passenger pigeon in which he 
says: ‘““The Birds spend the entire summer in Canada, and particularly 
do they nest in the vast wild forests and wastes which abound there, 
where no men are to be found and where seldom any human being 
ventures. When in the summer a person travels through these forests 
he might easily be terrified by the enormous number of these birds, which 
in some places almost entirely cover the branches of the trees and, when 
taking wing obscure the sky.” 

Indian Legends 

It appears rather strange, under the circumstances that there is 
apparently very little reference to this amazingly spectacular creature 
in Indian folk-lore. It seems natural to suppose that a bird possessing 
such great beauty and living in such an overwhelmingly “‘grand manner’”’ 
would have become closely linked with the observances and fables of a 
nature worshipping race. Perhaps this was actually the case and it is 
merely that such instances have never been recorded; on the other hand 
it may be that pigeons were such a common occurrence that they were 
considered purely from the point of view of provender, with no romantic 
glamour about them. 



After considerable searching I have found only three stories of Indian 
origin—two from the Hurons and one from the Neutrals. In the ‘‘Jesuit 
Relations” of 1636 (176c) in a chapter headed ‘‘The Ideas of the Hurons 
Regarding the Nature and Condition of the Soul, Both in this Life and 
after Death’’ Le Jeune says: “‘At the feast of the Dead, which takes 
place about every twelve years, the souls quit the cemeteries, and in the 
opinion of some are changed into Turtledoves, which they pursue later 
in the woods, with bow and arrow, to broil and eat.’’ Further on in the 
_ same Relation this idea is enlarged upon in the description of the Solemn 
Feast of the Dead, as practised by the Hurons: ‘‘Many think we have 
two souls, both of them being divisible and material, and yet both 
reasonable; the one separates itself from the body at death, yet remains 
in the cemetery until the feast of the Dead,—after which it either changes 
into a Turtledove, or, according to the most common belief, it goes away 
at once to the village of souls.” 

The Neutral story (61) tells of a great famine suffered by the Indians; 
all the animals had been driven away by terrible snow storms sent by the 
angry Manitou, all the lakes and streams were so frozen that fishing was 
impossible, and the Indians were starving. Then suddenly hosts of 
pigeons appeared each bearing in its beak a spray of huckleberries. 
These they dropped upon the villages and then flew away. The Indians 
followed them and after many days of searching at last found the great 
swamp from which the berries had been plucked and so were saved. 
It would be interesting to know whether this story is of true Indian 
origin or whether it received its inspiration from the story of Noah’s dove. 

Early References in Ontario 

The history of the passenger pigeon in Ontario is really the history 
in miniature of the species in North America. It passes through all the 
stages from abundance in pioneer days to scarcity and extinction within 
the memory of men still living. 

Upper Canada, which conformed to the present boundaries of Ontario 
in all except its northern limits, was formed in 1791 and a map of that 
period shows only York (Toronto) and Kingston as places of any import- 
ance, so that although there was a fringe of farms and tiny settlements 
along the lake shores this great tract was still practically untouched by 
man; and if passenger pigeons were at the time said to be diminishing 
at the seaboard due to the encroachments of civilization they must have 
been almost undisturbed in what was later to become Ontario. This 
whole area was heavily timbered with maple, oak, elm, beech, pine, 
cedar and many more indigenous species. Great forests stretched away 
on every side from the new settlements, with few natural clearings and 


in many places free of undergrowth, so close were the great trees. Here 
and there the monotony was broken by occasional lakes, a beaver meadow, 
or a larger opening such as the ‘‘Rice Lake Plains,’’ but on the whole it 
was a region of heavy woods; and these conditions prevailed largely until 
the middle of the next century. For example I have gleaned the follow- 
ing facts from various accounts of old Ontario. In 1832 Goderich was 
still the most northerly settlement in the west and had at that time a 
population of three hundred (29). In 1836—as an instance of how slight 
settlement was—from Andrew Pickens’ (145) account of conditions in 
the Canadas these items are taken at random: ‘‘Fenelon—Sozil, little 
known. Disadvantages, very remote; not settled.” ‘‘Esquesing— Soil, 
principally sand, clay in some parts. Disadvantages, lying in the rear 
of Trafalgar, and want of highways, mills, etc.’’ And in 1840 there were 
few evidences of settlement except in the Niagara and Gore Districts 
(the present counties of Halton, Wentworth, Lincoln and Haldimand), 
in the Prince Edward region and along the Ottawa river. While in a 
Handbook (42) of 1866 it is surprising to read: ‘‘Toronto to Collingwood 
(via Ontario Simcoe and Huron Railroad)—on this route the country, 
as far as Lake Simcoe, of which a good view is obtained from the cars, 
is well settled, and the soil is generally excellent; but after passing 
Holland’s Landing, the road is almost entirely through the forest.”’ 

As might be expected the country abounded in wild life. Deer were 
common, bears numerous, rabbits were plentiful and squirrels positively 
swarmed in certain localities in some seasons. Amongst the birds, wood- 
peckers were conspicuous, grouse were everywhere and in the lake regions 
water-fowl occurred in prodigious numbers during migration. 

The first important reference to passenger pigeons in the newly 
formed Upper Canada is that of Weld (185): “‘A gentleman of the town 
of Niagara assured me, that once as he was embarking there on board 
ship for Toronto, a flight of them was observed coming from that quarter; 
that as he sailed over Lake Ontario to Toronto forty miles distant from 
Niagara, pigeons were seen flying over head the whole way in a contrary 
direction to that in which the ship proceeded; and that on arriving at the 
place of his destination, the birds were still observed coming down from 
the north in as large bodies as had been noticed at any one time during 
the whole voyage; supposing, therefore, that the pigeons moved no faster 
than the vessel, the flight, according to this gentleman’s account, must 
at least have extended eighty miles. . . .It is not oftener than once in 
seven or eight years, perhaps, that such large flocks of these birds are 
seen in the country.” 

In 1822 Howison (92) says: ‘‘Long Point abounds with game of 
various kinds. . . .Immense flocks of the passenger or wild pigeon 


frequent this and other parts of Upper Canada during the spring and 
autumn; and myriads of them are killed by firearms or caught in nets 
by the inhabitants,’’ showing how soon upon settlement followed the 
local destruction of this bird and its subsequent retreat into the wilderness. 

Some twenty years later Sir Francis Bond Head, in the vivacious and 
entertaining account of his residence at York during his Governorship of 
Upper Canada (87) says: ‘‘But while this joyful process is proceeding 
in the vegetable world, the interminable forest is once again becoming 
the cheerful scene of animal life. . . .The air is filled—the light of heaven 
is occasionally almost intercepted from morning till night—by clouds of 
pigeons, which, as the harbingers of spring, are seen for many days 
flying over the forest, guided, I have been credibly informed, by a 
miraculous instinct, not only to the particular remote region in which 
they were reared but to build their own nests in the very trees upon 
whose branches each individual bird was hatched! but if, as is well known 
they are instinctively led to the country of their birth, it is not improbable 
that, when they reach it, they will rapidly search out for themselves 
their own ‘homes’.”’ 

The reminiscences of King (101) contain one of the best accounts of 
a flight of pigeons. This was published in 1866 but probably referred 
to an event of several years prior to that date: ‘“‘While quartered at Fort 
Mississisaugua [sic]. . . .near Niagara, I had one year [probably about 
1860] in the month of May, the gratification of witnessing a spectacle 
I had frequently heard of—namely, a grand migration of the Passenger 
Pigeon. 2: 

“Early in the morning I was apprised by my servant that an extra- 
ordinary flock of birds was passing over, such as he had never seen before. 
Hurrying out and ascending the grassy ramparts, I was perfectly amazed 
to behold the air filled, the sun obscured by millions of pigeons, not 
hovering about but darting onwards in a straight line with arrowy flight, 
in a vast mass a mile or more in breadth, and stretching before and behind 
as far as the eye could reach. 

“Swiftly and steadily the column passed over with a rushing sound, 
and for hours continued in undiminished myriads advancing over the 
American forests in the eastern horizon, as the myriads that had passed 
were lost in the western sky. 

“Tt was late in the afternoon before any decrease in the mass was 
perceptible, but they became gradually less dense as the day drew to a 
close. At sunset the detached flocks bringing up the rear began to settle 
in the forest on the Lake-road, and in such numbers as to break down 
branches from the trees. 

“The duration of this flight being about fourteen hours, viz. from 

MEM wig. 2g! 


four a.m. to six p.m. the column (allowing a probable velocity of sixty 
miles an hour, as assumed by Wilson), could not have been less than 
three hundred miles in length, with an average breadth, as before stated 
of one mile.” 

This may be a rather exaggerated estimate, as undoubtedly there 
must have been many breaks in the column, but nevertheless it gives a 
most vivid idea of the still enormous numbers of this bird—numbers 
which make its subsequent extinction all the more amazing. 

It is quite apparent that such game must have been of great import- 
ance to the pioneers from a purely economic standpoint. This is borne 
out by a report (54) sent by Colonel Henry Hope of Niagara to Lord 
Sydney in 1785 which states: “‘The quantities of wild pigeons and fish, 
which are taken in abundance during the same period [June Ist to Sept- 
ember Ist] will contribute to their support, and I conceive an allowance 
of one pound of flour per day for grown persons and half that quantity 
for those under ten years would enable them to live on their lands to the 
Ist of September after which the crop of that year will abundantly 
support them.”’ 

It has also been said: ‘‘During the flight of these pigeons, which 
generally lasts three weeks or a month, the lower sort of Canadians 
mostly subsist on them’”’ (4). Indeed some servants are said to have 
stated in their contracts that they would not eat pigeons more than so 
many times a week; and on reading the diary of Mr. Joseph Wilcocks (106) 
of York one wonders whether masters as well, ever had any comment 
to make on a monotony of diet. On August 10th, 1801, he says: ‘‘Had 
for dinner Roast Beef, Ducks, Pidgeons.’’ Tuesday, August 11th: 
‘We had for dinner cold beef, Pidgeons, hash and melons.’”’ And pigeons 
are included in the dinner menu on the following dates, August 13, 18, 
19; 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31 and September 1, 3, 4 and 7. 

In other pioneer accounts references are made to the pleasant change 
from salt pork that the pigeons made in their season, and how they were 
also salted down for winter use. Mrs. Traill (180) gives several recipes 
for cooking pigeons, among others one for Pot-pie; ‘‘Pigeons stuffed, 
larded and cooked in the bake-kettle, are very nice; and are tenderer, 
and more savoury than when baked in the stove. To make a pot-pie 
of them, line the bake-kettle with a good pie-crust; lay in your birds, 
with a little butter on the breast of each, and a little pepper shaken over 
them, and pour in a tea-cupful of water—do not fill your pan too full; 
lay in a crust, about half an inch thick, cover your lid with hot embers 
and put a few below. Keep your bake-kettle turned carefully, adding 
more hot coals on the top, till the crust is cooked. This makes a very 
savoury dish for a family. 


‘Pigeons are best for table just after the wheat harvest; the young 
birds are then very fat.” 


The broad outlines of the distribution of Ectopistes migratorius as 
given in the American Ornithologists’ Union check list (3) have already 
been quoted, but when going into the matter more closely with Ontario 
in mind, several interesting facts appear. 

This was a species essentially of the forest and a comparison of data 
on distribution of wild pigeons with that of forest distribution shows a 
close correlation. The heavily forested regions extend across Canada 
from east to west in a sloping line, from slightly north of 50° to slightly 
north of 60°, which seems to coincide with the known breeding range 
of the pigeon. Peter Kalm (81) sets the northern boundary for breeding 
at considerably south of this line in Quebec, but as so often occurs with 
scientists of a past age, his assertion was no doubt correct only according 
to contemporary information. He says: ‘‘These Pigeons have however 
their distinct boundaries, outside of which they do not often venture; 
as for example, somewhat south of Bay St. Paul, which is 20 French miles 
north of Quebec, not very many of them nest in the woods, and the 
cause of this is said to be that the oak and the beech tree, which supply 
them with their principal food, are here arrested in their growth, and 
grow no further north.” 

There is no doubt that pigeons nested more plentifully where mast 
was obtainable, yet we are told on good authority (Forster (74)) that 
they abounded at Moose Factory, and they also bred there (Hutchins’ 
MSS (95)), which place is on the northern edge of the heavily forested 
area and far beyond the northern limits of oak and beech. Low (114) 
records the taking of a set of passenger pigeon eggs in 1887 at Fort 
George on the east shore of James’ Bay which is between 53° and 54°, 
but this record is apparently open to question. 

Eastern Quebec records are: Gaspé, said to have been numerous, until 
about 1845 (178), in fact they formerly ‘‘abounded’’ there according to 
Nicolas Denys (77b); reported from Metis and St. Anne des Monts by 
Robert Bell (18); Anticosti, very rare, one seen by Verrill in 1860 (141); 
Pte. des Monts, Quebec, a rare and irregular visitor (130). 

From Labrador is the following report (179) also open to question: 
‘Formerly very rare, now extirpated. . . .Cartwright (40) on August 22, 
1775, in Sandwich Bay [about 53°] enters in his journal this note: ‘Near 
the mouth of the brook we saw a pair of doves, and I killed one with my 
rifle; it was much like a turtle dove and fed on the berries of Empetrum 
nigrum. I never heard of such a bird in the country before and I believe 


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they are very scarce.’ These may have been either Passenger Pigeons 
or Mourning Doves.”’ 

West of the province of Quebec the species was said to reach ‘62° in 
warm central districts and 58° in very warm summers on Hudson’s 
Bay” (13). Forster (74) says: ‘‘These pigeons are very scarce so far 
northward as Severn river [56°] but abound near Moose-fort, and further 
inland to the southward.”! 

Hutchins’ MSS (95) states: “. . .one that I received at Severn,’ 
in the year 1771, and, having sent it home preserved to Mr. Pennant 
he informed me that it was the migratoria species.’’ But this bird, of 

course, might have been brought to Fort Severn from a considerable 
distance and so can only be considered as a record from the Severn river 

‘About twenty-six years ago these pigeons migrated up as high as 
York Fort [57°] but continued only two days’”’ (95). 

“The Passenger Pigeon was seen in small flocks in the upper part 
of the Nelson River in the beginning of September, 1878. It very rarely 
passes York Factory and has never been known at Fort Churchill,” 
reports Robert Bell (20), while in contradiction of this Clarke (46) states 
that at Fort Churchill, [59°] a male and female were taken. These, with 
a collection of other birds, were presented to the Edinburgh Museum by 
Dr. Gillespie Jr., an officer of the Hudson Bay Company in 1845. 

Ross reports it at Fort Norman, (65°) but as uncommon there, while 
Alexander Mackenzie found it in the Fort Good Hope region, about 66° 
(149). And showing that, although apparently irregular in this area, 
they were by no means always mere stragglers, Thomas Simpson (159) 
says that at Fort Simpson, about 62°, in the summer of 1837: ‘‘The fields 
here looked well, but had a troublesome enemy in the passenger pigeons.”’ 

Also to show to what extremes stragglers may go: ‘‘Capt. James Ross 
saw a single pigeon of this species as high as latitude 731° in Baffin’s 
Bay; it flew on board the Victory during a storm and must have strayed 
from a great distance” (11); while Morris’ ‘‘British Birds’ (135) records 
one shot in Fifeshire, Scotland, December 31, 1825. 

It would seem therefore on the foregoing evidence, and aside entirely 
from great extremes, that all of Ontario was within the passenger pigeon’s 

1This quotation having the word “river” with a small “r” might lead to the 
supposition that the region of the Severn river was meant but it is evident from the 
text that it refers to the settlement at the mouth of the Severn usually known as 
Fort Severn. All through Forster’s notes he calls this settlement “Severn River,” 
and the note on the passenger pigeon is headed “Severn River, No. 63. Wood-pigeon,” 
so that it seems safe to suppose that the small “r’” in the text that follows is a 
typographical error. 

2“Severn” here being Fort Severn at the mouth of the river, since Severn 
House on Severn Lake to the southwest, was not built until much later, according to 
information from the Geographic Board of Canada. 



range. It probably bred all over the province in the well forested areas, 
less commonly and more irregularly toward the north; and occurred 
irregularly to the limit of trees which coincides fairly closely with the 
Ontario shores of Hudson Bay. 


In the history of any species of bird, nesting records are always the 
most important, and this aspect was therefore stressed in our inquiries. 
But when one realizes the great length of Ectopistes’ sojourn in America 
it is evident that the information we have assembled in this way is 
merely a record of its declining years—for were they not reported as 
being ‘“‘much diminished” about 1650, “‘the English taking them with 
nets’’ (98). : 

It must also be borne in mind, throughout this article, how very 
difficult it is to make positive statements concerning facts which are 
based largely upon the memories of others. Our memories play us strange 
tricks and nothing is more difficult than to remember exactly how and 
when a particular event took place. The desire for accuracy seems to 
have nothing to do with it. Dates, particularly, are hard to keep in 
mind unless connected with some important event in our own lives, and 
numbers nearly always have a tendency to grow rather than decrease 
in retrospect. So in the following tables dates can be, in almost every 
instance, merely approximate and many statements must be accepted 
with their perspective of, at the minimum, thirty years. I sincerely hope 
that no one who has in any way contributed to the information in this 
treatise, will take offense at these remarks. It is simply that the author 
does not want, in a work which purports to be scientific, to appear to 
make statements which might be challenged. 

There are in Ontario fifty-five counties and districts; there are records 
of passenger pigeons occurring in fifty-three, and nesting in forty-five. 
These nesting records are more numerous in southwestern Ontario, and 
of course the question arises as to whether this was actually the case or 
whether it is merely that information is lacking from the eastern counties 
and northern districts, due to their smaller population. Possibly at one 
time wild pigeons nested in equal abundance all over the province south 
of a line from Ottawa to the French River, but as civilization drove them 
gradually westward they no doubt modified their migrations to suit 
changing conditions. Migration will be discussed more fully under its 
own heading and it will suffice to say here that towards the end of the 
last century one of the chief entrances to Ontario was by way of the 
Niagara peninsula. This with the close proximity of Michigan, their 
last great stronghold in the east, and also the fact of abundant food 


supply, probably accounts for the concentration of breeding birds in 
the southwest. 

Table 1 (p. 27) contains records of all the nesting sites which it has 
been possible to secure. Records of large roosts are included since 


Fort Sevean 



Fort Georct 


wit S '€.O NS) i WN 

Map 2—Showing nesting records of passenger pigeon in Ontario. The large dots 
indicate localities where nesting took place. The areas marked with small 
dots are those throughout which nesting was known to occur. 

they were often so much a part of a nesting colony, even though a con- 
siderable distance away—a sort of commuting suburb—making their 
proper place seem under this section. Here also are placed ‘“‘rookeries,”’ 
the significance of the word not having been given by the informant; that 

(Continued after Table 1 on page 42) 



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is, it was not stated whether a ‘‘rookery”’ was a place where the birds 
nested or was merely a roosting site. But since it must have been either 
one or the other, their place seemed here rather than under a separate 
heading. Other records where breeding can only be surmised will be 
found under the heading of Occurrence. 

The remarks referring to the size of the colonies are in practically 
every case quoted directly from the source of information which is, unless 
otherwise stated, replies to a questionnaire, or a letter. 

Many records are very vague, some having no date, others giving 
the locality very indefinitely, but they all contribute to the evidence of 
former prevalence of the species. 

Although many items in this table might be discussed at some length, 
it has seemed inadvisable to do so. Comment is therefore confined to 
the general aspects of nesting colonies, and a few descriptions of individ- 
ual sites are given by way of illustration. 

Size of Colonies 

When we read such accounts of Ectopistes migratorius as Audubon (9) 
and Wilson (191) give, we are inclined to feel that if they are not ex- 
aggerated, at least such numbers never existed elsewhere or at a later 
date. The estimate of actual numbers is very difficult and the comparison 
of areas covered by nesting colonies or roosts is perhaps all that it is wise 
to attempt now. 

Audubon describes a “place of nightly rendezvous’’ which he saw 
about 1813—“'I rode through it upward of forty miles, and, crossing it 
at different parts, found its average breadth to be rather more than 
three miles.’’ This gives roughly an area of one hundred and twenty 
square miles. Wilson tells of a nesting place of about the same size also 
in Kentucky. In Ontario, in Ashfield township, Huron county, there 
was, about 1870, a nesting colony which covered an area eleven by 
thirteen miles, or roughly one hundred and forty-three square miles; 
and about the same time in Elgin county pigeons nested about a great 
huckleberry marsh for a radius of ten miles. At an earlier date, 1846 or 
1847, there was a great nesting in Oxford county which was ten miles 
square; while still earlier, about 1830, Stickland (166) says: 

“IT once accompanied the Doctor [Dr. Dunlop] on an exploring expedi- 
tion through the tract [Huron]. We encamped close to a breeding-place 
of these birds, when we were kept awake all night by the noise they 
made. ... 

‘“Towards morning, the sound of their departure to their feeding- 
grounds resembled thunder. For nearly two hours there was one 
incessant roar, as flock after flock took its departure eastward. The 



ground under the trees was whitened with their excrement, and strewn 
with broken branches of trees.”’ 

I realize that here are compared, in one instance, nesting colonies 
with a roost, but when a few facts are taken into consideration the 
comparison does not seem unfair. From Audubon’s text it would seem 
that the place he describes was a roost used at a time other than during 
the breeding season and would therefore in all probability contain 
recruits from more than one nesting colony; nor does he anywhere else 
mention a breeding colony which was larger than this roost. In telling 
of the arrival of birds he says they came from sundown to midnight, a 
period of probably about five hours, or perhaps less. The birds from 
the Huron Tract colony of Strickland’s description took two hours to 
leave in the morning and this might have been only half the colony, 
either males or females. See section on “Daily Flights.’’ It would thus 
seem that some of our Ontario nestings were quite comparable in size 
with those of an earlier date farther south. 

Decline in Size 

It is difficult to trace the decline in size of breeding colonies, for a 
man’s estimate of size or numbers is always relative to his own knowledge; 
and the fact that so few references have definite dates makes it still more 
complicated. For instance, someone who saw what he considered a very 
large colony in 1878 might have thought it fairly small had he seen larger 
ones in 1870. That there was a general decline in size seems apparent 
from the information received. Many men now living say that the 
flocks and colonies that they have seen were smaller than those reported 
by their fathers—and the fact that the marketing of pigeons was not 
considered a profitable business in Ontario for many years prior to their 
disappearance substantiates the theory. 

Daies for Ontario Nestings 

Dates in the table seem to show that there were very few nestings 
of any importance in the settled districts of Ontario after 1875, although 
pigeons still nested in large numbers in Parry Sound District in 1878-79 
and were still ‘“‘extraordinarily abundant” in northern Michigan at this 
time; the last nestings of any importance in the latter region being in 
1880 and 1881 (15c). There is only one large nesting in Ontario which 
may have been contemporaneous with these as far as we know—that 
is one in Dufferin county, Amaranth township, the date for which was 
given in 1929 as “forty-five years ago,’’ this being perhaps a rough 


The majority of dates for nestings in Ontario are for the years between 
1860 and 1875, and of course the question arises—were these unusual 
pigeon years or is it merely that there are very few men living to-day 
whose memories go back farther than this? The latter assumption 
seems the more probable since it will be shown in the section on ‘‘Variation 
in Numbers,”’ that ‘“‘pigeon years’’ were due more to local abundance 
than to actual fluctuation in numbers of the species as a whole. After 
1875 the birds were not only decreasing rapidly but were also being 
driven to nest farther from the settled parts of the country. 

Disiribution of Nesiing Pigeons 

After reading many old accounts of passenger pigeons it seemed 
apparent that some writers thought that each vast flock they saw con- 
tained all the pigeons in America and that there would therefore be only 
one great nesting in the country each season. There is an obvious way 
of disproving this, which is by tracing nestings of a certain date through 
different localities. Take for instance the year 1869; in this year ‘‘the 
birds were in Canada, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin all at the same 
time’ (131f), and this is not mere surmise, for Mr. Osborn, whose letter 
is quoted, was a professional ‘‘pigeoner’”’ having information based on 
commercial facts; then taking this same year in Ontario we find that 
nestings took place in Bruce, Grey and Huron, Elgin and Victoria 
counties—and no doubt in other localities from which nestings were 
reported for “‘about 1870.” 

In 1870 there was an enormous nesting in Potter and McKean 
counties in Pennsylvania, this site being one and a half to two miles 
wide and about forty miles long (72a); while in Ontario they nested 
plentifully in Grey, Huron (in three or more places) and Welland counties. 
Again in 1878, the year of great nesting at Petosky, Michigan, described 
by Mershon (131) and Barrows (15), colonies were formed at two other 
localities in Michigan and this same year they are said to have been 
breeding commonly in Parry Sound District near Dunchurch. So it 
seems that the birds were quite generally distributed, and not only, 
as Alexander Wilson says (191b), did ‘‘stragglers from these immense 
armies settle in almost every part of the country,” but great nestings 
took place simultaneously in comparatively close proximity. 

Distribution of Nesting Colonies in Ontario 

From an examination of the maps it is apparent that the nesting 
colonies of which we have records were largely concentrated in a semi- 
circle from the Bruce Peninsula through the Toronto region to the 
Niagara district. 


The concentration in the Bruce Peninsula is perhaps easily explained. 
Here, apparently, physical conditions were ideal. Even to-day the 
country is well wooded with beech so that in the pigeons’ time it must 
have been magnificently so. This in conjunction with much swamp land 
gave the birds their two most sought-after commodities—mast and mud. 
This latter idiosyncrasy will be discussed more fully in the section 
covering food. 

In Simcoe county, according to Mr. John Townson, there was form- 
erly a well known beechwood ridge between Barrie and Orillia where 
pigeons nested plentifully, and to which his father went on pigeon 
hunting expeditions. 

North York also was a suitable nesting locality with large pine areas 
bordered to the south with oak on the old “Oak Ridges,’’ while the 
Holland marsh region was as well a favourite with the birds. In the 
immediate vicinity of Toronto, none of the colonies was very large and 
it would seem that the number of small ones recorded is due to the 
greater population of the district, which naturally contains more people 
who remember the pigeons. It is also a question as to whether there 
was actual concentration of nesting colonies in the Niagara Peninsula, 
or whether it is simply that Niagara, being an old settlement with well 
populated outlying districts, produced more information per square mile 
than more thinly peopled regions. I think in this case both facts may 
be true for evidently the Welland swamps were attractive roosting and 
feeding grounds, and were conjoined with favourable hardwood tracts, 
containing much beech. 

Northern nesting records will be discussed more fully under details 
of Ontario distribution. 

Choice of Nesting Stites 

Judging from information obtained from questionnaires, and from 
the literature any species of tree of suitable size was used in a suitable 
locality. The locality was perhaps determined by food supply and the 
trees themselves were probably of secondary consideration. A preference 
for beech mast would lead to an apparent preference for beech trees as 
building sites, but judging from the great variety of trees in which 
pigeons’ nests were found the seeming preference was really more a 
matter of convenience. 

It has been suggested that the tendency to nest in swamps and 
scrubby growth on rocky country was a late phase, a retreat to the only 
available land left to the birds, land unsuitable for cultivation or timber 
cutting. This may have been the case to a certain extent, as such situa- 
tions would undoubtedly be the last to be cleared, but even in the days 


of the immense hardwood tracts, swamps were not avoided. In the 
stupendous sweep of the great nestings all types of country were engulfed. 
It is said of one of the great Michigan colonies (30a): ‘“The birds began 
building when the snow was twelve inches deep in the woods, although 
the fields were bare at the time. So rapidly did the colony extend its 
boundaries, that it soon passed literally over and around the place where 
he was netting [Mr. S. S. Stevens, professional pigeoner], although, when 
he began this point was several miles from the nearest nest. Nestings 
usually start in deciduous woods, but during their progress the pigeons 
do not skip any kind of trees they encounter. The Petosky nesting 
extended 8 miles through hardwood timber, then crossed a river-bottom 
wooded with arbor-vitae, and thence stretched through white pine woods 
about 20 miles. For the entire distance of 28 miles every tree of any 
size had more or fewer nests, and many trees were filled with them. 
None were lower than about 15 feet from the ground.” 

On looking at the table of nesting colonies it will be seen that, as 
usual, little can be proved conclusively in this respect with regard to 
Ontario. With the most aggravating regularity where swamp land is 
indicated as a nesting site, or might be implied from the type of tree 
used, no date is given. There is one reference however which indicates 
that swamp land was sometimes chosen in preference to other sites. 
Mr. Wm. Metcalf of Ravenna says that in the year 1859 they nested 
in a large swamp between Allandale and Angus, the colony covering 
hundreds of acres. He states: “. . .this is damp land but on every 
side for miles was thick pinery and no end to bush in every direction.” 

Another statement from Victoria county says that in 1869 pigeons 
nested in ‘“‘dense woods, highlands and swamps.”’ This is a fairly late 
date yet there seems to have been ample hardwood left for breeding 
colonies so that swamps were apparently used quite as much from choice 
as from force of circumstance. 

Quite incidently, the way in which Mr. Metcalf’s date of 1859 was 
definitely established is interesting. He remembered it as ‘'1858-9 or 
thereabouts—just before 1860’’ and placed it thus because his brother 
came of age that year and also because of a frost which occurred in late 
May or early June which killed all the newly sprouted grain, and neces- 
sitated its being resown. On writing to the Toronto Meteorological 
office we received the following information: ‘“‘In 1859 May ended mild 
but on June 5th temperature fell to 32.2 Fahr. This might well be the 
date since grain frozen so late would likely be resown as he says. The 
temperature at Allandale during such a frost would be lower than at 


Use of Nesting Site for Several Years 

There is ample evidence that nesting sites were used for more than 
one year, which seems rather surprising considering the enormous amount 
of food that the large flocks must have consumed. They were not, 
however, dependent on any one source of food, and should a favourite 
such as beech mast fail or be exhausted, the lack could be supplied by 
elm seeds, acorns or berries of various kinds; and their power of flight 
enabled them to seek these out at great distances. 

On consulting the table it will be seen that there are seven localities 
where nesting occurred for several years—Dufferin county, Mulmur 
township, 1852-55; Elgin county, Aldborough and Dunwich townships 
“at its height’ from 1868-70; Grey county, Kepple township, 1853 and 
1854, and also in Kepple township in 1862-65, 1869, 1870, 1872 and 1873 
(although these might have been in different parts of the township in 
different years); Lincoln county, Louth township, used for 4 years; 
Welland county, South Pelham township, 1870-72. 

Roosts also were evidently used for several years, one in Durham 
county, Darlington township from 1856-66, and in Forest and Stream in 
1880 (116) there is mention made of a roost in Scott county, Indiana, 
which was used for seventy-five years. 

Use of Nesting Sites as Roosts 

It has already been pointed out that roosts, to which the birds 
repaired at night, were quite often to be found near areas in which 
nesting took place. Our information is too scant and vague to allow 
us to form an opinion as to whether such roosts always occurred near 
nesting sites, but Whitman’s (39c) experience with captive birds, would 
suggest that such was their invariable rule. He says that paired pas- 
senger pigeons, until the eggs were laid, commonly roosted close together, 
but when the egg appeared the male at once showed a desire to roost 
away from the female, going as far away from her as the cage would 

When nesting had been finished the nesting sites were often used by 
old and young for night roosting, according to information obtained 
from our enquiries. 

General Descriptions 

Much has been written describing the great nesting colonies in the 
works of Wilson (191), Audubon (9), Mershon (131) and Barrows (15), 
and even in Fenimore Cooper’s ‘‘The Pioneers’’ (48), but it seems 


appropriate to quote here from one or two Ontario accounts, although 
it will be in some respects mere repetition. 

Mr. Geo. A. Phillips of Welland writes: ‘In South Pelham between 
the Thorold town line and 1% miles west to the Mt. Vernon road there 
was a block of over four hundred acres of solid bush made up of pine, 
white oak, beech, hard and soft maple with ash, elm and basswood, on 
level land. Here I saw a great many nests. One did not have to hunt 
far for them but just keep glancing up in the tree tops and see them by 
the dozens. Most of them were built low down—from eight to twelve 
feet would be the predominating height though some others were 25 or 30 
feet high. . . .Still west of this block of timber was a larger tract of 
wood containing perhaps a thousand acres, and on which pine, chestnut, 
white oak and beech predominated. This section was known as a 
“Bob Town” and a small part of it still goes by the same name, though 
the greater part of it is now called Chantler. In this locality there were 
countless numbers of nests most of them built low down as before 
mentioned. The pigeons generally arrived in the early part of May, 
though they are said to have appeared some years in early April. They 
feasted on the beech nuts, acorns and chestnuts, scratching the leaves 
off, and there would be immense numbers of birds which, when suddenly 
alarmed would rise with a roar like a passing train. Then along towards 
sunset they would flock south to the great huckleberry marsh about 
four miles distant, to roost over night in the tamaracks, and return each 
morning to their favourite feeding grounds.” 

Mr. N. Pearson of Aurora says: “‘In a neighbourhood five or six 
miles east of Yonge Street straight from Mulock’s Corners is a place 
called Pine Orchard [York county] properly called as there is, or was, a 
grove of pines of from ten to an hundred feet high with close branches 
and very dense, suitable in every way for nest building and the natural 
instinct of the pigeons preempted this place for a Rookery and to say 
that there were millions of nests there would be mere assertion. But no 
matter how many there were the facts would not account for the myriads 
of birds found in the country about... . 

“In the season Pine Orchard was inundated with people from the 
country about. Waggon loads of Farmers with their sons from miles 
about came during the daytime and at night with lanterns and torches 
and slaughtered with wholesale vigor. Caught the old birds and wrung 
their necks and carried off the squabs in bags by the waggon load.”’ 

Colonies of pigeons in Elgin county according to Mr. W. A. Edwards 
of Wardsville were “‘‘so large that they and their offspring like a storm 
cloud sometimes shut out the sunshine.” 



The Nest 

The type of construction of passenger pigeons’ nests is already well 
known—a shallow platform of small twigs, resembling that of the mourn- 
ing dove. Many nests were built in one tree, often so many that branches 
broke with the increasing weight of the squabs. They were usually 
placed near the trunk—the logical position for such a frail nest—and in 
uncrowded localities, chiefly in the lower branches. 

Number of Eggs 

The question of the number of eggs laid by this species has been dis- 
cussed for many years, and still there is no agreement. In the mass of 
information which we have received there is nothing which could be 
quoted with absolute authority, although the majority of answers stated 
that two eggs was the usual number. Of sixty-eight replies to this 
section of the questionnaire thirty-nine said two eggs, ten said one, and 
nineteen said two or more. Mr. John Difenderfer of Three Rivers, 
Michigan, states in his very full and intelligent response to our questions 
that two was the usual number and that when more than this were in 
one nest it was due to more than one female laying there. This suggestion 
is supported by Barrows (15a): ‘‘Nevertheless, most authorities believe 
that but one egg was laid by each bird, the cases in which two eggs were 
found in a nest being explained on the supposition that two females 
used the same nest.’’ It is further strengthened by the statement of 
Forbush (72b) that a communal spirit was shown amongst these birds 
in the feeding of a deserted squab by several females. To illustrate this 
he quotes an instance of a man who shot, one after another, six females 
which came to feed one squab. 


There has been considerable discussion as to the time required to 
hatch the eggs. Whitman says (39b): ‘‘The shortest incubation period 
that I have known anything about [in various species of pigeons] is that 
of the wild passenger-pigeon, which is only 12% davs.’’ But it has been 
variously given (Forbush, 72; Barrows, 15a; Macoun, 118) ranging from 
thirteen to twenty-four days. The period was very likely influenced by 
weather conditions which would vary with the birds’ irregular spring 
arrival. In our reports the estimate is from two to three weeks with 
the majority in favour of the former period. Again there is divergence 
of opinion with regard to the period spent by the young in the nest after 
hatching, but it seems fairly certain that it must have been about two 




The duties of brooding and feeding the young were evidently shared 
by the male and female, apparently with great regularity; this being 
proved by the daily flights to the feeding grounds when at certain hours 
a flock would consist entirely of females while at other hours it would 
contain male birds only. This practice is in accordance with the habits 
of mourning doves and other species of pigeons. (See section on Daily 

Number of Broods 

There is evidence of great variability as to the number of broods each 
season. Apparently in some seasons and certain localities only one was 
raised, while in others, evidence points to more than one, the number no 
doubt being governed by the weather, the food supply and the subsequent 
condition of the birds. In describing such variability in other species, 
Elton (63c) says: ‘“‘. . . but there are a great many cases known in 
which the weather affects mating or breeding, or in which climate or 
food supply vary the number of young produced in a brood, or the 
number of broods born in a year. For instance, the short-eared ow! 
(Asio flammeus flammeus) may have twice as many young in a brood 
and twice as many broods as usual, during a vole plague, when its food 
is extremely plentiful. But these variations in the reproductive capacity 
are small compared to the limits which are imposed by the constitution 
of the animals.”’ 

We do not know definitely how many eggs these pigeons were capable 
of laying in a wild state. Some in a captive flock of Mr. David Whit- 
taker’s, of Milwaukee, laid seven and eight in a season, but this was 
evidently abnormal and the average was three or four (56). As Barrows 
(15a) points out, the best proof that more than one brood was raised 
lies in the fact of large nestings lasting for so many weeks that the period 
must have covered more than one brood, and at least two. 

In this connection Whitman (39a) made an interesting observation 
concerning his captives. He said that his birds, having reared one squab 
and being ready to lay a second egg, showed the greatest desire to build 
another nest in a different site. They would try ceaselessly to get out 
of the cage. To quote: “It is remarkable how strong is the instinct 
to place the new nest in a new locality.’’ (Italics are Whitman’s.) He 
says the same instinct is present in other species of pigeons and thinks 
that it is based on the desire for a clean nest. If this was a fixed habit 
in free birds and the new site was in an entirely new region, and not just 
on the outskirts of the old colony, it would account for some of the 


irregularity of spring appearance. Late arrivals might quite probably 
have already nested elsewhere. Indeed Richardson (168) says: ‘‘The 
Pigeons came to the breeding place [in Kentucky, as described by Wilson] 
on the 10th of April, and left it with their young before the 25th of May. 
It is after this period that they resort to the fur-countries* to breed; 
and it is probable that several broods are raised in a season at different 
places.”’ This habit might also account for the fact that a nesting site 
grew in size during the season. New nests might be added by new 
arrivals from other regions, and new nests might be built on the outskirts 
of the colony by those birds that had already nested there. 

In late years molestation was an undoubted cause of desertion of 
nestings after the raising of one brood. But under normal conditions 
it was probably a matter of choice whether a colony was abandoned and 
a new site chosen for a second brood. 

Discussion of Occurrence 

Records of occurrence (Table 2) were taken very largely from books of 
travel, which accounts for their brief and casual nature. They are with 
few exceptions merely notes made by men passing through the country, 
and in most cases by writers whose primary interest was by no means 
ornithology. Because of this the references are usually brief and often 
of little definite scientific value in that they contain few particulars such 
as exact date, or exact locality. 

One record, that of occurrence of pigeons in the ‘‘Nipigon Country,” 
has not been marked on Map 3 (p. 58) for the following reason. In the 
article (126a) containing the reference this region is described: ‘‘The 
Nipigon department .... lies between the 49th and 57th degrees north 
latitude and is bounded: on the south, by Lake Superior, on the south- 
west and west, by the north-west road from Lake Superior to the lower 
end of Lake Ouinipique; on the north-west and north, by Hayes river and 
part of Hudson Bay; and on the south-east by Hudson Bay.” This is an 
enormous tract of land including the present Districts of Kenora, Kenora 
(Patricia portion), Thunder Bay and Cochrane, arid even to-day much 
of it is unexplored. Duncan Cameron, the author of the article, was a 
clerk of the North West Company, and no doubt travelled widely 
through the region in pursuit of his duties, but in spite of this I feel it 
would not be justifiable to mark the entire tract as having been fre- 
quented by wild pigeons. 

3Richardson states that the fur-countries comprised “the whole country north of 

the forty-eight parallel of latitude.” In Ontario this is, roughly, north of a line 
from Port Arthur to Lake Abitibi. 





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Map 3—Showing localities and areas where passenger pigeons occurred but are not 
definitely known to have nested. The large dots indicate definite localities 
where the birds are reported to have occurred. Smaller dotted areas show 
regions throughout which they occurred. 



From an examination of the maps showing nesting and occurrence it 
would appear that the majority of nesting records are in the south of the 
province, and the occurrence records are towards the north. The supposi- 
tion from this is that pigeons confined their nesting to southern Ontario 
and appeared only as late summer visitants in the northern regions, but 
that such was not the case will be shown in the discussion which follows. 
It seems more probable that, as already indicated with regard to the 
apparent local concentration of nesting in southern Ontario, the scarcity 
of nesting records from the north is due more to a lack of observers than 
to a scarcity of pigeons. There are many facts which prove the possi- 
bility of common occurrence and nesting of pigeons in the northern area. 
We know from an article of Fleming’s (67) that the species nested 
throughout the Parry Sound District. This carries nesting above the 
Transition Zone into the Canadian Zone, and natural conditions which 
prevail in Parry Sound continue westward to the east shore of Lake 
Superior and are then found again westward of the Lake in south Thunder 
Bay and through Rainy River and Kenora to Lake Winnipeg. We know 
from Atkinson (8) that pigeons bred in this western Lake of the Woods 
region, and there seems no reason to doubt. that they did so between 
this and Parry Sound in the section designated. The number of summer 
occurrence records from Algoma would substantiate such a supposition, 
for it seems probable that passenger pigeons completed their physiological 
development in one season and in consequence there would not be flocks 
of immature birds to wander freely and widely the next year, making 
a large, erratic summer population where no breeding had taken place, 
as there are in some species; and even though they were wanderers after 
the breeding season was over there seems no reason for more southern 
nesting birds to travel so far north. 

There are two records of pigeons flying into this region in spring; 
one is from a questionnaire from Manitoulin Island, stating that they 
used to fly north over the Island in June, evidently going beyond it to 
nest; while Borron says (27b), as quoted in the table, that birds flew into 
the region north and east of Lake Superior, although he failed to find 
their nests. 

Natural conditions along the shore of Lake Superior lying within 
Thunder Bay district are more northerly in character than to the east 
and west, the northward curve of the shore and the greater altitude being 
the causes, and yet there is a record of pigeons being common and breed- 
ing until about 1880 at Nipigon, and of them being seen on Slate Island 
in early May (89b). We know, too, from correspondents that they 


occurred in thousands in the region of Lakes Kenogamissi and Matta- 
gami, Sudbury District, and nested at Gogama to the southwest of these 
lakes; were destructive to crops at Liskeard, Timiskaming District, and 
nested in the region east of Lake Timiskaming in Quebec. This last 
record is from an account of wild pigeons sent by Monsieur Gauthier, 
Mayor of Taschereau, Quebec. In view of these facts it seems justifiable 
to say that all of Ontario south of the height of land dividing the Hudson 
Bay drainage system from that of the Great Lakes was included in the 
breeding range of the passenger pigeon. 

North of the height of land, well authenticated records tell of pigeons 
occurring and breeding. Conditions in the clay belt would be favourable 
to them, and although so much farther north than the region just dis- 
cussed, it is well known that climatic conditions tend to ameliorate some- 
what in a northward direction due to the influence of the coastal plain. 
It is evident from the general distribution of Ectopistes in America that 
this region lies within its range. There are various records of occurrence 
both east and west of Ontario that follow the general northwest and 
southeast slope of the province. In addition to records already given 
in the earlier part of this article Lemoine says (112) pigeons were common 
in the province of Quebec, indeed he says: ‘‘The northern mountain 
ranges were infested with them,” and he records four from the Lake St. 
John region in 1889. West of Ontario Bell (20) saw them on the upper 
Nelson river in September, 1878. 

There are few definite records from this region of Ontario, but what 
there are, are significant. Nesting records are: three from Moose 
Factory, one from the Abitibi river, and one from the Mattagami, and 
added to these a record from a closely adjoining part of Quebec, the east 
end of Lake Abitibi. Occurrence records are from Moose Factory, the 
Albany, at Martin’s Falls, the Severn and the region between these two 
rivers. Here again, I think it is significant that six out of eleven North- 
ern Ontario records are from Moose, the largest centre of civilization 
in the region. 

The record for the section north of the Albany is possibly of little 
scientific value, but is included for its interest. Mr. Difenderfer, whose 
report it is, gave a very intelligent account of pigeons in Michigan and 
also the facts presented in the table. He said he was “‘on a trip’’ when 
he saw the birds as stated. I wrote to him for confirmatory details, but 
could get no reply. 

There are several facts worth noting concerning the breeding records 
from the Abitibi and Mattagami rivers. The information was supplied 
by Mr. Joe Moore, a former mail carrier between the Abitibi Post and 
Moose Factory, whose reliability is vouched for not only by the general 


tone of his information, but also by Mr. La Prairie of Canadian Industries 
Limited, at Timmins. Mr. Moore says that the birds nested along the 
Abitibi Canyon and farther to the north, and at Smoky Falls on the 
Mattagami, in large numbers and for several years (see Table 1). 

According to a Forestry Department (97) map of the region these 
records are just within the northern edge of the clay belt, the Abitibi 
nesting area stretching some miles farther north, and both localities are 
apparently quite well wooded with conifers and mixed hardwood; the 
ridges mentioned by Mr. Moore being, in 1923 when the map was made, 
still partly covered with “‘virgin forest’. (Mr. Moore says the nestings 
extended below the Abitibi Canyon for about sixteen miles to ‘‘Altar 
Falls’’. No such place has been found on any map, but the Forestry 
map shows at about this distance from the Canyon “‘Otter Rapids’’, 
which may be the same. ‘“‘Altar’’ and “‘Otter’’ are not unlike when 
carelessly pronounced.) 

It might also be noted that these two nestings are immediately within 
the northern limits of the white elm, as is the nesting record for the region 
at the east end of Lake Abitibi in Quebec. This is perhaps significant 
in view of the fact that the seeds of the elm were frequently eaten by 

At Moose Factory, the Forestry map shows an isolated patch of 
coniferous forest, where no doubt the birds nested. 

The breeding records are very brief and to augment them Hutchin’s 
MSS, ‘Observations on Hudson’s Bay, 1782,’’ as given in Thompson’s 
Birds of Manitoba (95) and (172), is quoted at length: ‘‘The first species 
I shall take notice of is one I received at Severn [see footnote 2, page 00] 
in the year 1771, and, having sent it home preserved to Mr. Pennant, 
he informed me that it was the migratoria species. They are very 
numerous inland and visit our settlement to the southward in summer. 
They are plenty about Moose Fort and inland, where they breed, choosing 
an arboreous situation. The gentlemen number them amongst the many 
delicacies Hudson’s Bay affords our tables. ’Tis a hardy bird, continuing 
with them till December. In summer :their food is berries, and when 
these are covered with snow they eat the juniper buds. They lay two 
eggs and are gregarious. . . .About twenty years ago these pigeons 
migrated up as high as York Fort, but continued only two days.”’ 

Throughout practically the whole great region under discussion there 
should have been no problem of food supply. The majority of the region 
lies beyond the northern limits of beech, oak and maple, the pigeons’ 
favourites in the south, but there would be other bud and seed producing 
species, many of which extend to James Bay. Amongst them are the 
white elm already mentioned, canoe birch, spruce and the ubiquitous 


pin cherry (Prunus pennsylvanicus). The last named species was evi- 
dently eaten by Ectopistes since it is called pigeon cherry (see page 101). 

Even if these various trees were more or less sporadic in their dis- 
tribution, there would be great quantities of different kinds of berries 
to supplement them. According to all travellers’ reports gooseberries, 
currants, blueberries of several kinds, cranberries and crowberries 
(Empetrum nigrum) are immensely plentiful, each in its season, through- 
out Northern Ontario. 

All things considered then—definite records of breeding and occur- 
rence, suitability of habitat, abundance of food and wide ranging tend- 
ency of passenger pigeons—it seems safe to assume that they nested in 
many localities in northern Ontario, north to Moose Factory and occurred 
widely throughout the region, irregularly in the most northerly parts. 


Another way of increasing information on the distribution of the 
species is by noting places—lakes, rivers, etc., bearing the name Pigeon, 
or its Indian equivalent. There are no doubt many small lakes and 
rivers with this name which are not indicated on any map, but several 
have been listed and a few are of considerable interest. 

The one of most interest to Toronto is that of one of its suburbs, 
‘“Mimico,’’ which is from an Indian word meaning a place where pigeons 

Omeme is also of Indian origin, the Pottawattomie for pigeon being 
O-me-me-wog, Chippewa and Cree for pigeon being Omimi. A list of 
Ontario names follows: 

Mimico, York county. 

Omemee, Victoria county south, on Pigeon river. 

Omemea island, Parry Sound District. 

Pigeon bay, Essex county. 

Pigeon island, west end of the Thousand Islands. 

Pigeon lake, Haliburton county, west of Gull lake. 

Pigeon lake, Peterborough county, 10 miles north of Peterborough. 

Pigeon lake, Sudbury District. 

Pigeon lake, Thunder Bay District, on the Ombabika river. 

Pigeon rapid, Cochrane District, Mattagami river north of Lake 


Pigeon river, Victoria county, etc., flowing into Pigeon lake, Peter- 

borough county. 

There are a few other places with this name scattered across Canada, 
but those particularly pertinent to this article are three situated in 


Manitoba. They are Pigeon lake, Pigeon point and Pigeon river on the 
west shore of Lake Winnipeg north of latitude 52° and might almost be 
said to constitute another northern occurrence record. 


‘They clouded the sun in their flight and shadow after shadow passed 
on the fields,’’ said one of our correspondents. 

The great migration flights of the passenger pigeon were undoubtedly 
its chief claim to fame. They were spectacular to a degree. In the 
early days when they came men dropped their work in field or woods, 
women left their indoor tasks and all stood agaze while the mighty armies 
rushed thundering overhead; and even later when our cities were growing 
up and we were becoming more civilized, flights of pigeons were con- 
sidered a great event. One of our correspondents says they came next 
in excitement to the Fenian Raids! 

Much has been written of these great migrations, more than of any 
other aspect of the species. Wilson (191) and Audubon (9) devote pages 
to descriptions of the amazing flights they witnessed in the south and 
these are so well known that they are not quoted here. There are given 
instead one or two excerpts from other sources, which will be of more 
local interest. 

Two of the best descriptions of flights to be found in the early litera- 
ture relating to Canada have already been given—those of Weld (185) 
and King (101)—but there are still others. Strickland (166) says: 

“Persons unacquainted with the country and the gregarious habits 
of this lovely bird are apt to doubt the accounts they have heard or 
read respecting their vast numbers; since my return to England I have 
repeatedly been questioned upon the subject. In answer to these 
queries, I can only say that, in some parts of the province, early in the 
spring and directly after wheat-harvest, their numbers are incredible. 
Some days they commence flying as soon as it is light in the morning, 
and continue, flock after flock, till sun-down. To calculate the sum 
total of birds passing even on one day, appears to be impossible. I think 
the greatest masses fly near the shores of the great Canadian lakes, and 
sometimes so low, that they may be easily killed with a horse pistol, 
or even knocked down with a long pole.”’ 

Mr. John Townson’s recollections of the passenger pigeon which is 
quoted in full in the appendix contains the following account of a flight: 
“One morning about the middle of April in. . . 1876 I happened to be 
on Toronto Island near the Eastern Channel, when I noticed what I 
supposed to be an immense black cloud over the lake to the southeast 
moving towards Scarboro’ Heights, but as there was a moderate north 


wind blowing I could not figure out how the cloud was moving against 
the wind. However, I did not have long to wait, as the moving mass 
changed its course and swung to the westward, and in a few minutes the 
northern edge of the cloud was directly overhead and I found myself 
gazing at an innumerable flock of wild pigeons. 

‘The birds were flying at a height, as near as I could judge, of prob- 
ably 500 feet, but as the visibility was good there was no doubt about 
what they were as their long tails were clearly discernible. I took out 
my watch and that flock kept passing over my head for fourteen minutes. 
I think if my father had been there (reluctant as he was to use the word 
millions) he would have broken his rule that time. I could plainly hear 
the rushing sound made by the wings until the birds passed out of sight.”’ 

Mr. Pearson of Aurora says: “‘I have seen them in flight no doubt 
in the millions by standing on the streets in the little hamlet of what 
was then Mitchell’s Corners, now the town of Aurora, and looking south 
towards the Oak Ridges a mile and a half away a line of birds creeping 
up over the tree tops with apparently no end, and looking north for 
three or four miles to the Holland Landing a continuous band of them 
twenty or thirty feet wide and continuing for hours every day, or say 
for two or three hours. This seems incredible, but so it was.” 

There are many such accounts of the great numbers of these huge 
migrations but unfortunately few have written of the aesthetic side of 
such a spectacle. The wild pigeon was a very handsome bird, graceful 
in form and harmonious in colouring; indeed the Pottawattomie chief 
Simon Pokagon said that “‘if the Great Spirit in His wisdom could have 
created a more elegant bird in plumage, form and movement, He never 
did.’’ Such a bird in full flight must have been a magnificent sight, for 
even our common domestic pigeons can give quite thrilling aerial displays. 

It is said of the wild pigeon (66): ‘“‘When flying in flocks of hundreds 
or thousands you would think sometimes they were coming straight at 
you when all at once when within thirty or forty feet, they would make 
a quick turn to the right or left or upward, a swift and most graceful 
turn, and away in another direction. It would seem, sometimes, as if 
they just tried to see how near they could come and get away successfully. 
The flocks often seemed to fly hither and thither over the forests for the 
very joy of flight. When they flew to the east of you so that the sun 
shone on them there was a perfect riot of colour as they passed. The 
male birds were much finer looking and more showy than the females, 
and the sheen of their plumage in the evening sun was such that no words 
could be found to describe nor a painter to paint it. The flash of brilliant 
colour and the wonderful whirr of their wings in flight as they passed 
within a few yards can never be forgotten.” 

(Continued after Table 3 on page 80) 



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Even though Chief Pokagon’s article (146) has been reprinted 
practically in full in Mershon’s book (131), I feel that I may justifiably 
quote from it again for its artistic worth. ‘‘I have seen them move in 
one unbroken column for hours across the sky, like some great river, ever 
varying in hue; and as the mighty stream sweeping on at sixty miles 
an hour, reached some deep valley, it would pour its living mass headlong 
down hundreds of feet, sounding as though a whirlwind was abroad in the 
land. I have stood by the grandest waterfall of America and regarded 
the descending torrents in wonder and astonishment, yet never have my 
astonishment, wonder and admiration been so stirred as when I have 
witnessed these birds drop from their course like meteors from heaven.” 

Comments on Migration Flights 

Ectopistes migratorius, as its name is meant to imply, was highly 
migratory. Being so very gregarious its actions were controlled by food 
supply to a much greater extent than in the case of most other species 
of bird. Other gregarious birds such as the gannets and murres of our 
coasts, or the southern penguins, have an unlimited source of food which 
travels by their very ‘‘doors,’’ but the pigeons’ mast as well as other 
food was stationary and had to be sought out each year, often in a new 

After a superficial survey of the records of erratic arrivals and de- 
partures, appearances and disappearances of these birds it would seem 
that they were governed wholly by caprice and improbable that they 
had any fixed routes of migration (see Table 3, p. 65). Little has been 
said on this subject in the literature and therefore it was with considerable 
interest that the maps used here as illustration were marked in the hope 
that something definite in migration tendency might become apparent. 

Spring Migration 

As indicated before the data that we have on migration apply only 
to the later years of Eciopistes’ existence in Canada, and it can never be 
known to what extent migration routes may have been modified to suit 
changing conditions. There appear to have been in the times of which 
we have knowledge, three routes of entry into Ontario—one by way 
of the western end of the province between Lakes Erie and Huron, one 
by the Niagara Peninsula, and one around the eastern end of Lake 
Ontario. On first thought it appears strange that such a notoriously 
strong and swift flyer as the passenger pigeon should trouble to skirt 
such lakes as Erie and Ontario which it could pass over in less than an 
hour’s flight, but a closer study of the facts presents an apparently 


reasonable solution. Flights that came in by the land routes were 
generally low and in one or two instances it has been said that the birds 
seemed tired. Probably these were flocks that were nearing the end 
of a long journey and were looking as they went for a suitable place to 
pitch for food, or for a prospective nesting site. 

Mershon says (13la): ‘‘Now that the pigeons had come they would 
‘fly’ every morning. This we knew from years of observation in the 
great migration belt of Michigan. They would fly lower to-morrow 
morning, and in a day or two more sweep low enough for the sixteen- 
guage and the number eight shot to reach them.”’ 

Map 4—Showing spring flights of passenger pigeons. Arrows indicate direction of 

This theory is borne out by the fact that many of the flights which 
did cross the lakes directly were evidently flying high with a more distant 

Spring migrations were on the whole well directed movements of 
massed forces which, having once chosen a route, held to it for many 
days and only showed an erratic tendency when nearing their destination. 
“The immense flocks of pigeons which have been flying over various 



parts of the country in an undecided way for the last week or two have 
gathered in the township of Amabel, in countless numbers, and have 
begun building”’ (152). 

I think too that this erratic tendency grew as the birds became more 
persecuted towards the end of their existence. Several instances have 
been received of what appear to be unusually late spring movements 
which were doubtless the result of having been driven from a selected 
nesting area. This supposition is strengthened by reports from Michigan 
and Pennsylvania, of nesting colonies being so persecuted that the birds 
were forced to leave the district altogether, doing so in a mass flight. 
J. S. Van Cleef of Poughkeepsie, New York, is quoted in Mershon (1311) 
as follows: ‘“‘This flock had nested in Missouri in the month of April, 
and most of the squabs were killed. . . .When the nesting was over the 
entire flock went to Michigan, where they nested again, and they were 
followed there by the same persons who again destroyed the squabs. 
When they left Michigan they took their flight eastward, and telegrams 
were sent all over that part of the country where the pigeons would be 
likely to nest a third time, and as soon as they settled in the Catskills 
these persons were apprised of the location and very soon appeared on 
the scene.”’ 

Fall Migration 

As compared with spring flights fall movements were much more 
wandering and unorganized. Apparently after the nesting season the 
birds scattered in small flocks over the country, drifting about in search 
of food until the cold weather, sometimes congregating in fairly large 
numbers in favourable localities. Even though this had not been 
definitely stated in the information we have it would be obvious from 
the Fall Migration map which shows few definite flight records but several 
closely dotted areas throughout which fall movements were noticed. 

Although a desultory migration was the common thing in this season 
there were evidently occasional large flights. The great one recorded 
by Weld (185) and already quoted (page 19) was most likely one of these 
and there are other instances from Bruce, Haldimand, etc. It seems 
probable that they may have been connected with large roosts—that is, 
in some localities roosts were formed which were used not only during 
the breeding season but all through the summer and here in the fall 
very large numbers of pigeons would assemble. For instance there were 
great roosts in Durham county, Darlington township, where, in August 
and September, there came “‘myriads’”’ of birds and from which there 
appears to have been a general exodus toward the end of September. 


One of our correspondents stated that this was the common tendency 
where late summer flocks were not broken up by hunters. 

These flights had, of course, a general southern trend, and in south- 
western Ontario there seems to have been a decided western drift. 
Flocks from the Niagara region which arrived from the east seemed to 
leave toward the west, and in Kent county the general tendency was 
also in that direction. There is however little definite information for 
this season of the year and the preceding statements are largely surmise. 

Map 5—Showng fall migration of passenger pigeons. Large dots indicate definite 
fall flights—arrows show direction. Dotted areas are those throughout which 
fall movement took place. 



The heading ‘‘Formation” in the table of migration flights needs some 
explanation and comment. There has been considerable discussion as 
to the way in which the migration flocks were arranged, some saying 
that they flew in long lines thus: 

Formation 1 

ast 1.e., ‘‘Long lines 

—+ ; 
5 with a 
roe narrow front.”’ 

Others that they flew in long lines thus: 

Formation 2 

+ ++ 
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so + + , ; 
ar pO =e oe 1.e., ‘Long lines 
T+ Ta with 
eas —— —— V1 a 
Suarbey —+ — broad front.”’ 
+ + ame 

the number of these lines varying from one to several in a flight, and 
in the case of Formation 2, being sometimes in irregular layers one above 
the other. They varied in length, some being so long that both ends 
disappeared beyond the horizon, and they also varied in width, from a 
few feet to many yards. 

That the usual form of flight was in long lines is very evident, from . 
many accounts of the species, but it has been difficult in most cases to 
discover which formation these lines took. From definite records in our 
questionnaires where it was obvious which was meant, eight correspond- 
ents say they flew in Formation 1, and seven say they flew in Formation 2. 
It would seem therefore that both were used, some saying that No. 1 was 
used for short distances only, No. 2 being the common formation, in 
layers, for the great spring flights. , 

This latter was the case as observed by Dr. Bethune of Toronto and 
Dr. Henry Howitt of Guelph. The former says (22a): “. . . flock after 


flock of pigeons crossed from the south at Toronto. All of the flocks 
were fairly long, from east to west, and some of them reached farther 
each way than one could see, but all were of short dimensions from 
north to south. I could not, of course, give the exact depth of these 
flocks, but it would be something like 100 yards or less.’’ While the 
latter states (93): ‘“‘With the exception of two or three years from 1852 
until the pigeons disappeared completely in our district, I spent hours, 
more than once most of the day, observing the April flights. And every 
year of my observations I paid particular attention to the altitude, 
direction, contour, and the strata formation of the spring flocks; also 
from what quarter they came and disappeared. Invariably the flocks 
which passed over my observation place first became visible in the East, 
well above the distant forest horizon, like mist or haze that, on nearer 
view, quickly became a flock of pigeons which, in like manner, faded 
from sight in the West; altitude about a quarter of a mile, and direction, 
a straight line from East to West; and all the flocks to right or left of 
me did likewise. 

“Every year all the spring migration flocks resembled one another 
in contour very closely; all had strata formation; the small ones had only 
two or three strata, the large ones, about thirty or more, according to 
their size. In every case the lowest stratum was longest in every direction; 
each stratum above it to the top was one or two birds shorter than the 
stratum below it; hence in every direction there was a slope from top 
to bottom; in every flock the front slope was the shortest, the rear one, 
the longest of all, and those of the sides were considerably longer than 
the front one. The space between the several strata appeared less than 
a foot, and all the birds of all the strata seemed to have ee enough space 
sideways to move their wings freely. 

“The strata of the large flocks were always limited in number to less 
than forty. The lowest stratum of all the flocks was nearly as level and 
even as the surface of a lake on a calm day; so were all those above it. 
According to my memory, the wings of all the birds of each flock moved 
synchronously with the wings of the leader. The speed of the spring 
flight was estimated by many to be a mile a minute, and in my opinion 
this was not an exaggeration—always faster than all the other kinds of 
flights. And of all kinds, the distance from side to side was greater than 
from front to back.”’ 

An explanation of the two formations is given by Alexander Wilson 
(19la). “A column eight or ten miles in length would appear from 
Kentucky, high in air, steering across to Indiana. The leaders of this 
great body would sometimes gradually vary their course until it formed 
a large bend of more than a mile in diameter, those behind tracing the 


exact route of their predecessors. This would continue sometimes long 
after both extremities were beyond the reach of sight, so that the whole 
with its glittery undulations marked a space on the face of the heavens 
resembling the windings of a vast and majestic river. When this bend 
became very great the birds, as if sensible of the unnecessary circuitous 
course they were taking, suddenly changed their direction, so that what 
was in column before, became an immense front, straightening all its 
indentures, until it swept the heavens in one vast and infinitely extended 

To quote further from published authorities—Audubon (9) describes 
a great flight toward the southwest in which the birds flew in ‘‘immense 
legions. . . with a front reaching far beyond the Ohio on the west and 
the beechwood forests directly on the east of me.”’ 

Chief Pokagon, in his article already quoted (146) says: ‘‘I have seen 
them fly in unbroken lines from the horizon, one line succeeding another 
from morning until night, moving their unbroken columns like an army 
of trained soldiers pushing to the front, while detached bodies of these 
birds appeared in different parts of the heavens, pressing forward in 
haste like raw recruits preparing for battle. At other times I have seen 
them move in one unbroken column for hours across the sky, like some 
SNA MV ET its a dep 

There are also records of large single flocks which varied in shape, 
some being ‘‘formless masses’’, others being thus: 


These tapering masses, some of which were very large, seeming to cover 
the whole sky at times, usually being preceded and followed by smaller 

The height of migration flights varied considerably. Often the birds 
were so low that they had to rise to pass over trees and houses and could 
be whipped down with poles from hill tops; and at the other extreme a 
Michigan report says they have been seen so high in the air that they 
looked like sparrows. | 

When in full flight and far from their destination they apparently 
flew high—the flock seen by Mr. Townson over Toronto Island being, 
he said, at about five hundred feet, and other reports say that they flew 
well out of gunshot. 


As may well be imagined the actual flight of the passenger pigeon was 
exceedingly swift and graceful. It flew at a great speed which has been 
estimated as reaching sixty miles an hour. Mr. Justice Latchford of 
Toronto says: ‘The flight was very rapid and exceedingly graceful. 
While direction was held each bird appeared a law unto itself, swaying 
and twisting and veering, yet never colliding with one of its fellows.” 
Professor MacClement of Queen’s University says: ‘‘The flight of the 
tame pigeon is quite similar to that of the wild pigeon but the flight 

of the latter looked even more graceful and dashing, partly due to their 

long tails. They flew directly toward their object in long, dashing 

Many people mention the habit of rolling or twisting in flight and 
also of zig-zagging when taking to the air and of taking a second or two 
to get “‘straightened away.”’ 

Another interesting characteristic of the birds when in full flight, 
which has been mentioned by Wilson, Mershon and some of our cor- 
respondents, is that of a portion of a flock making a sudden downward 
plunge, as of a water-fall, the birds behind following the lead of those 
gone before and dropping down at the same spot in the air, this continuing 
forsome time. The explanation is variously given as due to “‘thin”’ spots 
in the air or the stoop of a hawk upon the flock from above. 


With most species of birds migration is a very regular performance. 
It is usually possible to tell within a few days when a certain bird will 
arrive in a given locality in the spring and leave in the fall, but this was 
evidently not always true of wild pigeons. In a general sense they 
exhibited the customary northward in spring, southward in fall, tendency, 
but within this broad movement there was considerable local variation. 
That it should be so seems reasonable enough when their great numbers 


and gregarious habits are taken into account. Their local wanderings 
would quite naturally be controlled by immediate food supply, abundance 
of mast, for instance, in one region, causing stop-overs which would mean 
variability in arrival in some other region. (See Migration Flight table, 
Huron county, Ashfield township, April 10, 1876.) It is said, too, that 
their movements became more irregular toward the end of their existence 
when they were driven from one region to another by their persecutors. 

Spring Arrival 

In the discussion of migration flights it was shown that spring move- 
ments were more purposeful and concentrated than the autumn south- 
ward drift, and in consequence there is available a series of reliable and 
authoritative dates which make definite statements possible. 

A series of dates for spring arrivals is given in the accompanying table 
that covers a period of one hundred years. The dates range from March 
8th to June 24th with the majority in the month of April. It is perhaps 
unfortunate that so many items refer to one locality, the Toronto region, 
but I think there is enough other material to indicate that the Toronto 
records are quite typical for southern Ontario generally. 

There is also a mass of evidence of a less definite nature in the question- 
naires which corroborates the variability of these dates. Statements 
that pigeons arrived ‘“‘during sugar making’, ‘‘at the time of spring 
sowing’, ‘“‘during potato planting’’, show a range from the middle of 
March to the middle of May. 

Early arrivals were evidently not unusual since there is considerable 
proof of such in addition to the seven dates in the table. Several of our 
correspondents have told of pigeons coming before the snow was gone, 
of seeing it trampled by them in the woods, and have wondered how 
the birds could subsist so early in the year before the appearance of any 
plant life; and also there are references in the literature to nestings which 
were begun before the snow was off the ground. ‘‘In 1865a heavy nesting 
was in Canada, near Georgian bay. . . and the snow was two feet under 
the nesting.’’ Mershon (13le). The Petoskey nesting of 1876 or 1877 
began when snow was twelve inches deep in the woods. (Brewster, 30a). 
Mr. Townson of Toronto was told that in 1854 pigeons arrived at Toronto 
on February 22nd, but he considered it too unauthoritative a statement 
to be given much prominence. 

It is becoming steadily more apparent that weather has little to do 
with spring migration of birds. The migratory species obeys an urge 
from within rather than responding to an impulse from without; and 
this is well illustrated by a few data concerning early arrivals of Ecto pistes. 
It might seem a logical conclusion that early arrivals should follow upon 



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mild winters, but this is not the case. On making inquiries at the 
Toronto Meteorological Office as to the temperature of the years in 
which arrivals were in March, it was found that in every case but one 
the winters were colder than the average. For example in 1860 pigeons 
flew over Toronto on March 8th and yet that winter the temperature 
had been 5° lower than the mean; again in 1875 they came on March 13th 
after a decidedly cold winter, which was 9.1 below the average. In fact 
in only one instance did an early arrival follow a so-called mild winter. 
This was in 1858 which was said to have been mild by the correspondent 
of the “Canadian Naturalist and Geologist’ (49), (see Table, 1858, 
Kempenfeldt Bay), but was merely ‘‘average’”’ according to the Meteoro- 
logical Office. 

That these early arrivals were sometimes disastrous to the birds is 
apparent. There is one record from Welland county that tells of them 
coming about the first of April and being caught in a late spring storm 
and freeze-up, in which many starved to death and others came in great 
numbers to barn-yards for the grain scattered there. 

The question of late spring arrivals has already been discussed under 
nesting habits and migration flights, and the suggestion made that they 
were dependent on food conditions, earlier nesting further south and, 
in late years, on persecution. 

These remarks apply really only to Ontario south of the Districts. 
Information is too scarce from Northern Ontario for anything definite 
to be stated in respect to that region. The two northern records that 
we have—for Manitoulin Island and the Mattagami river—are both in 
June. But two reports are quite insufficient to allow of even a tentative 
statement for so large a region, although Swainson and Richardson (168) 
state that: ‘This celebrated bird arrives in the fur-countries in the latter 
end of May.” (See footnote, p. 51.) 

Fall Departure 

The autumn movement has been discussed at some length under 
“Migration Flights,’’ and little need be added here. As already shown, 
it was apparently quite desultory in character, the custom being for the 
birds to scatter over the country when nesting was done and so drift 
about until well on into the fall. This habit led people living near a 
deserted nesting to state that the birds ‘‘left the country”’ in June or July 
as the case might be. The time of their going was governed by food 
supply, a Dufferin county record saying that early October was the usual 
time of departure unless beech nuts were plentiful, in which case they 
would linger until November Ist. 

That, on occasion, they stayed even later than this is apparent. 


Hutchins (95), as quoted before, says: “It is a hardy bird, continuing 
with them | Moose Factory] until December.”’ Mr. R. B. Elgie of Toronto 
remembers a flock of seventeen which he saw in a corn-field at Dixie near 
Toronto on New Year’s day about 1865. This flock, he said, had been 
in the neighbourhood for some time. In Pennsylvania, according to 
Anderson (38): ‘“‘They would stay in the fall until the weather com- 
menced to get cold, but some would stay all the year round.” 

Relaiion to Brooding 

Aside from migration flights, Ectopistes migratorius performed daily 
flights in connection with its various activities which were very regular 
in their occurrence and route. Those of greatest interest were to and 
from the nesting colonies, when the flocks consisted, with regularity, 
of either males or females; that is since the sexes alternated in brooding, 
as has already been described, those that were not on the nests left in 
large bodies for their feeding grounds at definite hours and returned with 
equal regularity to relieve their mates. 

Eaton (59) describes this habit at a colony in Alleghany county, 
and states that the males left in the early morning returning about 
11 a.m. to replace the females, which in their turn came back about 3 p.m. 

Brewster (30a) says: ‘“‘Both birds incubate, the females between 
2 o'clock p.m. and 9 o’clock or 10 o’clock the next morning; the males 
from 9 or 10 o’clock a.m. to 2 o’clock p.m. The males feed twice each 
day, namely, from daylight to about 8 o’clock a.m. and again late in 
the afternoon. The females feed only during the forenoon. The change 
is made with great regularity as to time, all the males being on the nests 
by 10 o’clock a.m.’’ Whitman (39d) states that in all species of pigeons 
with which he was acquainted the cocks incubated from about 10 a.m. 
to 4 p.m. Mr. Ben O. Bush, a correspondent of Mershon’s, says that 
if the feeding grounds were at a great distance from the nesting colony 
only one change was made in twenty-four hours, males and females 
having alternate days off (131 h). Some of our correspondents say that 
pigeon hunters were governed by the time of movement and sex of the 
flocks, as some people favoured one sex more than the other as food. 

Flights for Food, Water, etc. 

Nesting colonies, feeding grounds, drinking places and roosts were 
often in separate localities, necessitating several cross-country flights a 
day. ‘The places where they fed and those where they got water were 
often miles apart. The nests were often not near either of these places.”’ 



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Foop 95 

(Mr. D. Nelson Phillips, Laurel, Ontario.) In going to and from such 
localities definite routes were used; the route towards one often being 
different from the route away from it. This fact is mentioned in Strick- 
land’s account (166) for Peterborough county (see Table 5), and also 
Mershon (131b) says: ‘“‘The Pigeons in this particular locality have 
followed the same routine as long as I have known them. They only 
fly in the morning, always going in the same direction, and I can’t recall 
seeing them coming back again, or flying later in the day.”’ 

It is said that morning flights were more scattered, while the evening 
return to the nesting colony or roost was more definitely concentrated. 


Pigeons as a family feed upon vegetable material—fruit, berries, seeds 
and grain are the staples of their diet. An occasional variation is supplied 
by worms or grubs, grasshoppers or caterpillars. Passenger pigeons 
seem to have been faithful to the family tradition, keeping within the 
prescribed bounds; although when we consider the number of these birds 
existing in North America in the days of their great abundance we are 
tempted to question how nature could possibly feed such a horde within 
any limits whatever. That it was done is obvious, and the solution 
must lie in the fact of the vastness of the forests and the prodigality 
with which seeds and berries were produced. One of our correspondents 
says: ‘‘Those grey elms, virgin forest trees, produced elm nuts [elm seeds]. 
When they were ripe they could be shovelled off the ground” and no | 
doubt other species of trees and plants were equally fruitful. 

Early References 

There is considerable reference in the literature to what wild pigeons 
ate, the earliest seeming to be in the ‘‘Jesuit Relations” for 1616 (176b), 
where Biard says: ‘‘. . . there are a great many wild pigeons, which 
come to eat raspberries in the month of July... .’’ In 1672 there are 
the references already quoted from Nicolas Denys (77 a & b), in which 
he tells of incredible numbers of pigeons coming to parts of eastern 
Gaspé for strawberries and raspberries. 

Considerably later, in the next century, Kalm (73) says: “‘The 
Frenchmen shot a great number of them and gave us some, in which 
we found great quantity of the seeds of the elm, which evidently demon- 
strated the care of Providence in supplying them with food; for in May 
the seeds of the red maple, which abounds here [between Forts Anne and 
St. Frederic, Lake George region] are ripe, and drop from the trees, 
and are eaten by the pigeons during that time; afterwards, the seeds of 


the elm ripen, which then become their food, till other seeds ripen to 
feed them.” 

Another account of early food habits is this: ‘‘The Indians, before 
the European settlements, used every year regularly to burn the woods, 
the better to kill deer; this practice kept the woods clean, so that the 
pigeons readily got acorns, which then not being devoured by hogs, were 
plenty almost everywhere, and induced a return more frequently than 
now...) (amy 

When grain of various kinds was introduced by the colonists the 
pigeons soon discovered its value as an item of diet. In 1643: ‘“‘The 
immediate causes of this scarcity [of food] were the cold and wet summer 

. . also the pigeons came in such flocks (above 10,000 in one flock), 
that beat down, and eat up a very great quantity of all sorts of English 
ordain... wee 

In the ‘‘Jesuit Relation”’ of 1662-63 (176f) an unknown writer says: 
‘This season they attacked the grain fields, where they made great havoc, 
after stripping the woods and fields of strawberries and raspberries which 
grow here everywhere under foot.’’ Peter Kalm (81), later on in the 
next century, gives an annotated list of food of which a condensation 
is given: 

Maple seeds; elm seeds; mulberries—in Pennsylvania in June; all 
grain except corn; rye—not popular; wheat—most “‘coveted’’; buck- 
wheat; berries of sour gum tree in Pennsylvania (this grows also in 
extreme southern Ontario); acorns; beechnuts—in Canada particularly. 

This writer then describes a characteristic on which many other 
authors and observers have commented—that of a liking for salt: “I 
have also observed that the Pigeons have a special fondness for the kind 
of soil which is much mixed with common salt; this soil serves them as 
food, as a spice to blend with the food, or for its medicinal properties— 
I do not know which. At the Salt springs of Onondaga, in the tribe 
of the Iroquois Indians, where the soil is so strongly mixed with salt that 
the ground during a severe drought becomes entirely covered with it 
and as white as frost, making it impossible for plants to grow, I noticed 
with astonishment, in the month of August, 1750, how covetous the 
Pigeons were of this kind of soil.”’ 

Even earlier the ‘Jesuit Relation’ for 1656-57 (176e) tells of the 
‘Journey of the Fathers of our Society . . . to the country of the Upper 
Iroquois, called Onnontoeronnons”’ where “. . .in the Spring so great 
numbers of Pigeons collect around these salt springs, that sometimes as 
many as seven hundred are caught in the course of one morning.’’ And 
in our own times ‘“The Canadian Handbook and Tourists’ Guide’’ (160a) 
says of the Caledonia Springs, Prescott county, Ontario: “It is said the 

Foop 97 

medicinal properties of these springs were first discovered by pigeons 
flocking in large quantities to them; and the well known penchant of this 
bird for any salt substance led to an investigation, which resulted in the 
waters being brought into notice. .. .”’ 

How this trait was turned to the pigeons’ detriment will be discussed 
under Methods of Taking Pigeons. 

Food Eaten in Ontario 

The following information on the food of the pigeons in Ontario has 
been compiled from the answers to the Museum questionnaires. Such 
statements as the “‘popularity’’ of a certain article of food are based 
on the frequency with which it was mentioned. 

Food in Spring—Beechnuts—Evidence points to these having been a 
great favourite and even a staple article of diet in certain localities. 
In spring last year’s nuts were eaten and the fact that these had some- 
times sprouted seems to have made no difference. 

Acorns—That pigeons ate acorns is a too frequently mentioned fact 
to be doubted, although they would seem to be a large throatful. 

Chesinuts—‘‘Sometimes the spring flights brought birds with crops 
containing a very small variety of sweet chestnut, said to be chinquapins 
(not native in Ontario).’”’ (Mr. M. W. Althouse, Toronto.) 

Buds—Young tree buds seem to have been a favourite in the spring, 
and no doubt were often the only edible thing available. 

Pigeon berry (Mitchella repens) partridge berry or squaw berry. Its 
name alone would proclaim this an important item. It is strange that 
it is mentioned as being eaten only in the spring as the berries are ripe 
toward the end of September. ‘‘We had a berry, called Pigeon berry, 
of which these birds used large quantities. . .’’ (E. H. Kelcey, Loring, 
Parry Sound District). 

Winter-green berries (Gaultheria procumbens)—These are only men- 
tioned by one man, but no doubt many people called any small red berry 
growing on the ground “‘pigeon berry’’ which would include this and 
other species. 

Squirrel corn (Dicentra canadensis)—The mention of squirrel corn is 
interesting because several of our correspondents and other writers have 
said that pigeons ate roots, but formerly this does not seem to have been 
proved conclusively. Barrows (15b) thought that when the birds were 
apparently eating roots they were in reality eating worms and grubs. 
However, there will be given below, under ‘“‘Roots’’, one or two bits of 
evidence which seem to indicate rather definitely that these were eaten. 

Roots—As a confirmation of the root eating habit the following 
quotations are given. The first are from the diary of Wm. Pope (147), 



which concerns western Ontario: In June and July, 1835, pigeons ‘‘were 
generally on the ground seeking a particular kind of plant that chiefly 
flourishes in these parts of the Forest [small swamps and low flat 
lands] and the white, crisp roots of which afford them a great part of 
their substance at this time of the year.’’ June 1, 1836 (?) “In low, 
swampy places they find a kind of root which serves them for food—it is 
of a whitish colour and is hot and has much the same flavour as horse- 
radish.’’ A description which sounds very much like that of the common 
crinkle-root (Dentaria diphylla). 

Corroboration from a different locality, the eastern States, is as 
follows: ‘‘This morning I took an excursion accompanied by ————,, who 
wanted to show me the Leek or Pigeon pea, as he calls it. . . .The Pigeon 
berries or Pigeon peas we could not find, until we returned to the house, 
where a place was where they commonly grow; in howing up some ground 
they showed me the roots by which I found them to be, probably nothing 
else, than the tuberculis of a species of Glycine, resembling marrowfat 
peas very much; the pigeons scratch them up at certain times of the year 
and feed up on them very greedily” (150). This might have been 
Amphicarpa monoica Linn., which occurs from New Brunswick to 
Florida, and is variously known as ground-nut, wild bean, ground-, 
trailing-, or potato-pea. 

The pigeon family are not considered to be scratchers, and yet from 
observation of a captive flock of passenger pigeons (Deane, 56) it was 
evident that they could on occasion employ this method of seeking food. 
When fed earth-worms that went down into the soil: ‘“The Pigeons are 
so fond of these tidbits, they will often pick and scratch holes in their 
search, large enough to almost hide themselves.’ If they were capable 
of such energetic work it is more than probable that they could easily 
unearth roots which grow as near the surface as those mentioned. 

Weed Seeds—The eating of these is mentioned only once in our 
questionnaires, but they seem a logical thing for pigeons to eat, as mourn- 
ing doves do so in large quantities. 

Grain—A newly sown grain field was a Mecca for pigeons. In the 
old days when hand seeding was the custom the birds had ample op-- 
portunity to feed upon the seed before it could be harrowed in. ‘‘I have 
seen a ten acre field sown with spring wheat covered with pigeons, and 
I believe they took all.’’ (Col. J. P. Telford, Owen Sound.) “I have 
heard it said that a man got a small bit of land cleared, and sowed two 
bushels of peas and went in to dinner, and after dinner he went out to 
harrow and cultivate to cover them up and there was not a pea to be 
seen.”’ (John Wagur, London, Ontario.) 

There is conflicting evidence as to whether they ate sprouting grain 

Foop 99 

or not, some saying that they did, some that they never touched it. 
Since Forbush (7lc) says they ate tender shoots of various kinds, I see 
no reason why they should have excluded sprouting grain. I have found 
only three recorded instances, none unfortunately from Ontario, other 
than questionnaire replies. Two are in Armstrong’s pamphlet (6), one 
of which is of a Dan Roy who remembers that pigeons ‘‘even pulled up 
the grain after it had sprouted,’ and Jesse Wilson tells of them feeding 
on fall wheat fields: ‘“‘Even after the grains had sprouted, they pulled 
up the blades.’’ While in a letter quoted in Mershon (131f), it says: 
‘The birds were pulling wheat badly; other feed was gone.” 

Summer food—As might be expected, summer diet was more varied, 
different kinds of berries being most important. 

Elm seeds—A favourite article of diet, judging from the number of 
times they are mentioned in questionnaires. One of our correspondents, 
the late Mr. F. Kay Reesor of Markham, said that these ‘‘nuts’’ were 
supposed to give the birds’ flesh a strong flavour. 

Maple seeds—A staple food. 

Pin cherries (Prunus pennsylvanica)—These were evidently very 
popular, judging from the number of people who mention them (see also 
Clute, page 101). ‘‘. . . they also ate large quantities of Cherries, of 
which we had three or more kinds growing wild.’”’ (E.H. Kelcey, Loring, 
Parry Sound District.) 

Elder berries (Sambucus spp.)—Both black and red. 

Bilberries and blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), huckleberries (Gaylussacia 
spp.)—These various members of the heath family were all eaten in their 
season. They must have grown in very great profusion in Ontario at 
one time. Mrs. Trail (181) tells of the abundance of these berries on 
the ‘Rice Lake Plains,’’ and we are also told of great huckleberry marshes 
in Elgin and Welland counties near which pigeons nested. 

Blackberries, raspberries (Rubus spp.); currants, gooseberries; (Ribes 
spp.), strawberries (Fragaria sp.)—One of our correspondents says that 
all ‘‘small fruits’? were eaten, as they very evidently were. Hutchins’ 
MSS (95), says: “‘In summer their food is berries, and when these are 
covered with snow they eat the juniper buds.”’ 

Buckwheat—The only grain mentioned as a summer food, although 
it probably ripens no earlier than other cereals. It has also been said 
that pigeons did not demolish standing grain, but ate it only from the 
stook or stubble, but this seems to be a moot point. The quotation from 
Winthrop (193), (page 96) suggests that they may have done so, in that 
he says they ‘‘beat down”’ the grain. 

Grasshoppers—Grasshoppers are mentioned in one of our question- 
naires, and also in Forbush’s ‘‘Game Birds, Wild Fowl and Shore Birds”’ 


Grubs—The supposition that grubs were eaten was based on the fact 
that the birds were often seen feeding on the ground in woods and also 
on unsown fields. Perhaps in such cases they ate anything that came 
their way—nuts, seeds, worms or insects. 

Autumn food—Beechnuts—Judging from the answers in the question- 
naires, beechnuts were eaten more in the spring than in the fall, but this 
preference is no doubt more seeming than actual. In spring they would 
be more obviously an item of diet as there were fewer edibles to be had 
at that season. 

White oak acorns (Quercus alba)—It is not possible to state whether 
other species of acorns were eaten, but it seems unlikely that such a 
voracious creature as the pigeon would discriminate, except perhaps in 
the matter of size, as mentioned before. 

Mountain ash (Pyrus sp.)—Mentioned in one questionnaire. 

Sassafras (Sassafras variifoltum)—This is a species confined to south- 
ern Ontario, and is reported as being eaten by pigeons only from Essex 
county: “In the fall, the passenger pigeon was attracted principally for 
food to the sassafras berries having a deep red colour; the trees furnishing 
this food were numerous upon the sandy ridges of this section.’’ (Ques- 
tionnaire, F. H. Conover, Leamington, Ontario.) 

Cranberries (Vaccinium sp.)—One mention of cranberries being eaten 
is from Timiskaming District. 

Wheat—As Peter Kalm says, wheat was the most ‘“‘coveted”’ of the 
grains. Many tales are told of the stooks being blue with pigeons. Fall 
wheat, newly sown, was of course not overlooked. 

Buckwhea:—This seems to have come next to wheat in order of choice. 

Oats, barley—Eaten on occasion. ‘‘The first barley grown in East 
Williams was supposed to have been grown by Donald McQueen from 
barley taken from crop of wild pigeon.’’ (A Middlesex county report.) 

Peas—These were another great favourite. The late Col. T. J. 
Murphy of London, Ontario, said: ‘‘A flock swooped down on my father’s 
pea field one Sunday while he was at church and cleaned it up, about 
three acres. The peas were ripe and they left nothing but the straw.’’ 

Siubble—Stubble fields were well gleaned. 

There is only one notable omission from these local lists. Aside from 
the eating of juniper buds in the Hudson Bay region, no mention is made 
of evergreen seeds, which are considered important in Forbush’s account 
from the New England States (71b), and by a correspondent of Mershon’s 
(131g). Thelatter says: ‘‘They area greedy bird and will eat everything 
from a hemlock seed to an acorn. I have known them to nest on hemlock 
mast alone in Pennsylvania, and in Michigan on the pine mast after 
beech mast was gone.’’ Considering the extensive pine forests of early 

i MTD Ds 

Foop 101 

Ontario and the great northern regions of spruce and hemlock where 
pigeons undoubtedly occurred, the seeds of these trees must surely have 
been eaten in large quantities. 

The soil and salt eating habit have their Ontario examples. Mr. Alex. 
Dey of Brownsburg, Quebec, formerly of Grey county, says: ‘‘Another 
habit of theirs was usually on a beaver meadow, there was always a 
portion of this on which no grass grew, when the water subsided this 
would become dry. The birds used to get down on this dry portion of 
the marsh, but what they got there I do not know.’”’ And from the same 
county Mr. S. L. Wright says: ‘‘We lived within five minutes’ walk 
of the Saugeen river and when the mills closed the dam for. the night the 
water all ran away for miles down stream so that there was scarcely any 
water in the bed of the river, and the birds used to come there in hundreds 
and settle down in the bed of the stream. I think they were after pebbles 
or gravel and water, as I don’t think they will eat little fish.” 

In Halton county “‘they gathered around a salt lick in Bridgeman’s 
Bush near Zimmerman.” (Mr. C. N. Bastedo, Toronto.) 

Additional lisi of planis from botanical literature 

While annotating the above lists it occurred to the author that there 
might be references in botanical literature to plants or berries named for 
pigeons and eaten by them, and this proved to be the case. The follow- 
ing list has been compiled from Britton and Brown’s Flora (381); “‘Studies 
of Plant Life in Canada,’’ by Mrs. Trail (181); Clute’s ‘Dictionary of 
American Plant Names,” (47); ‘‘The Flora of Canada,’’ by Macoun & 
Malte, (123); Macoun’s ‘“‘Catalogue of Canadian Plants,’ (119) and 
others as cited. 

Setaria glauca, foxtail; pigeon grass, (Gray. 79). 

Setaria viridis, green foxtail; pigeon grass, (‘‘Weeds of Ontario. 86). 

Rubus triflorus, swamp raspberry; pigeon berry, (Clute. 47). Occurs 
throughout Ontario north to York Factory. (Macoun. 119). 

Prunus pennsylvanica, pin cherry; pigeon cherry, (Clute. 47). 

Prunus pumila, dwarf cherry; sand cherry. ‘‘So eagerly is the fruit 
sought for by the Pigeons and Partridges that it is difficult to obtain any 
quantity, even in its most favoured localities.’ (Mrs. Trail. 181). 

Mitchella repens, partridge berry; pigeon berry; pigeon plum, (Clute. 
47). Occurs north to Georgian bay region, (Macoun. 119). 

Lithosperma arvense, corn gromwell; pigeon weed, (Clute. 47). 
Occurs in Ontario, (‘‘Weeds of Ontario’. 86). 

Verbena officinalis, European vervain; pigeon’s grass, (Clute. 47). 
Naturalized from Europe before 1753, (Britton & Brown. 31). 


Aralia hispida, bristly sarsaparilla; pigeon berry, (Clute. 47). Occurs 
throughout Ontario north to Hudson bay, (Macoun. 119). 

Aralia spinosa, Hercules’ club; pigeon tree, (Clute. 47). The Ontario 
member of this family is Aralia racemosa, American spikenard, a shrub 
whose berries may well have been eaten by pigeons. 

Cornus alternifolia, alternate-leaved cornel; pigeon berry, (Clute 
47). Ontario from Ottawa to Lake Superior south, (Macoun. 119). 

Cornus canadensis, bunchberry; pigeon berry. The only place where 
I have found this plant called “pigeon berry”’ is in ‘‘A few Thoughts on 
the Botanical Geography of Canada,” by S. Sturton (167). 

Cornus stolonifera, red osier dogwood; ‘‘In the latter part of August 
and early in September of the same year, on the Swan river, above 
Livingstone, and also on the upper Assiniboine, we saw large flocks of 
passenger pigeons and as food was scarce we shot large numbers for the 
pot. The low flats along the river were covered with Cornus stolonifera 
and on the ripe berries of this shrub they were feeding.” (J. & J. M. 
Macoun. 121). 

Empetrum nigrum, black crowberry; pigeon berry, (Clute. 47). This 
berry is also called curlew berry, as well as several other names. It is 
said to be one of the chief foods of migrating geese in the spring, and is 
eaten by Eskimo curlew and ptarmigan. Occurs in the Arctic Zone. 
(M. & M. 123). See page 22 for reference to it being eaten by pigeons 
in Labrador. 

Tlex verticillata, black alder; pigeon berry, (Clute. 47). Mrs. Trail 
calls this the Canadian holly, and says: ‘‘. . . much sought for by the 
Wild Pigeon and Canadian Partridge.”’ (181). 

Vitis aestivalis, summer grape; pigeon grape, (Clute. 47). Confined 
to southern Ontario, (J. Adams. 1). 

Phytolacca decandra, poke-berry; pigeon berry, (Clute. 47). Found 
in southern Ontario, (Macoun. 119). Neltje Blanchan (24) says: 
‘What a hideous mockery to continue to call this fruit the Pigeon-berry, 
when the exquisite bird whose favourite food it once was, has been 
annihilated from this land of liberty by the fowler’s net.”’ 

Feeding Habits | 

When feeding. on the ground passenger pigeons exhibited a habit 
which was evidently universal with the species, since mention of it comes 
from many sources. The flock of birds thus feeding moved with a wide 
front,.those in the rear constantly rising and flying ahead to settle again 
in the front ranks. Mr. Justice Latchford of Toronto describes this most 
vividly: “I once saw a large flock feeding in a pea field between me and 
the sun low but bright. The splendid iridescence of their plumage thus 



received a new glory. Every bird was moving, those left in the rear 
where the gleaning had been gathered, flying over those in front in a 
constant progression. The vivid colours, flashing wings and rapid and 
graceful motion combined to produce a scene that is vivid in my memory 
to-day, after a lapse of more than fifty years.” 

Mr. Alanson Tanner of Weyland, Michigan, says: ‘““The ground would 
be blue with pigeons and they constantly flew ahead of the one before 
them so it looked like blue hoops rolling, or playing leap frog.”’ 

According to W. H. Hudson (94), a similar habit is possessed by the 
military starling of the Argentine pampas: ‘‘They are always on the 
move, the flock presenting an extended front, the beaks and scarlet 
breasts all turned one way, the hindermost birds continually flying 
forward and dropping down in or a little in advance of the front line. 
It is a pretty spectacle, one I was never tired of seeing.”’ 

Other birds which feed on the ground in flocks display a similar 
tendency—snow-birds, sparrows and, naturally enough, domestic 
pigeons—but it was the passenger pigeon’s great numbers that made 
this such a conspicuous feature among its habits. 

Another characteristic of the wild pigeon often noted was its greed. 
It was a voracious eater, choking down such things as acorns, seemingly 
too large for its throat, and apparently having no judgment concerning 
its own capacity. A correspondent says: “I remember shooting two 
beside a run of water and found their crops vastly filled with elm nuts 
and to such an extent that one of them was bursted open and the food 
exuding.’’ (Mr. N. Pearson, Aurora.) Perhaps this bird had suffered 
the same fate as is recounted in the following incident: ‘‘Those pigeons 
were gluttons to eat and after they cleaned up my father’s pea field 
referred to in my report I found some of them dead near their nesting 
place. What happened was, they filled their crops with dry peas, then 
flew to the stream near their nesting place and drank water. The dry 
peas swelled and either burst their crops or choked them. Some of them 
were not quite dead on Monday, the next day, when I found them, and 
besides being good food the gluttons saved my powder and shot.”’ 
(Letter from Col. T. J. Murphy, London, Ontario.) 

It may easily be assumed from the importance of grain in passenger 
pigeons’ diet that they must often have been a decided menace to the 
farmer. Judging from the quotations already given this was so, and it 
was particularly true in the days of the early settlements when the year’s 
crop was of such vital importance. It is not difficult to imagine the 


hardships which might ensue for the pioneer farmer who had his spring 
sowing gobbled up by these voracious visitors for in those days seed was 
not easily obtainable and once lost would be perhaps impossible to 
replace; or should the birds descend upon his stooks in the fall much 
precious potential flour would be lost. 

This destructiveness continued even when the pigeons were greatly 
decreased in numbers, for although the birds were fewer and grain fields 
vastly more numerous, natural food was becoming scarcer in the settled 
districts, due to clearing of the land and other human activities. Many 
of our correspondents say that their first remembrance of pigeons is 
having to keep them off the grain fields. Mr. Althouse of Toronto says: 
‘‘When I was nine or ten years old I earned my first wages (25c. per diem) 
by shooting (or shooting at) the flocks of pigeons raiding a neighbour’s 
new-sown fall wheat,” and Mr. S. L. Wright of Uxbridge says: “. . . the 
natural food was grain if it was to be had, and in those days there were 
no farm implements like we have to-day. The grain was scattered by 
hand and often half of it not covered as it was usually harrowed in with 
a home-made harrow, all wood, or else a big branch of a tree dragged 
over the ground. So of course the birds lived principally around the 
fields and were very destructive. Sometimes boys had to be kept from 
school to keep them from destroying crops and when the grain was cut 
and in shocks I have seen hundreds of shocks so covered that you could 
see nothing but pigeons.”’ 

Other quotations may well be given here, as I think a more vivid 
picture of conditions is obtained from them than in any other way. 

One description is taken from Mr. C. A. Fleming’s article in the 
Owen Sound Sun Times (66): ‘‘When wheat was ripe in early August and 
cut and stooked it was quite interesting to see a flock of a few thousand 
pigeons circle around over the field and alight on the stooks of wheat. 
They would entirely cover the grain heads where they were exposed. 
The farmer was usually alive to the trouble and frequently his gun took 
toll of the invaders. The grain at that time was put together 12 sheaves 
toastook. Ten were set up on their butt ends in the stubble in a double 
row, and two were spread over them, but towards the middle for a double 
purpose (1) to shed the rain if wet weather came, and (2) to cover the 
heads of ten sheaves and only leave two exposed to the pigeons when 
they came.” 

Another colourful account has already been quoted (132), but well 
justifies repetition: ‘‘Some settlers blessed the pigeons and were thankful 
to Providence for such a free gift of food. Others stuffed themselves 
with pigeon pie and cursed and swore because the poor birds trespassed 
on their fresh seeded fields, ungrateful, as the Israelites of old were when 


they were so bountifully supplied with quail.’”’ (Mr. R. B. H. Williams, 
Petosky, Michigan, formerly of Huron county, Ontario.) 

To come from these general descriptions to more definite information, 
the variability of pigeons’ habits is again apparent. From ninety-six 
replies to this section of the questionnaire the following information is 

56 answers say that pigeons were destructive to crops. 

40 answers say that pigeons were not destructive to crops. 

In 13 localities they were said to have been destructive in the fall. 

In 7 localities they were said to have been destructive in the spring. 

In 17 localities they were said to have been destructive in the spring 
and fall. 

Wheat, buckwheat and peas were the chief crops destroyed. 

Sown grain, either that sown in spring or fall wheat, was most coveted. 
There is no mention of standing grain having been eaten. 

On first thoughts it seemed probable that regions in which pigeons 
were not destructive would be those where there were small nestings 
or none at all. This is true in eleven cases out of the forty cited, but 
there are such notable exceptions that no rule could be formulated. 
From counties such as Grey, Bruce and Huron, where breeding took 
place in colonies of remarkable size, eleven replies (four from Grey, six 
from Bruce and one from Huron) say that pigeons were not destructive 
to crops. Besides this discrepancy the total evidence is much too con- 
tradictory for the theory to hold water; as for example other reports 
from these same counties state quite emphatically that crops were 
destroyed. A solution of the apparent confusion may be seen in the 
following quotation, although it deals with another matter: ‘‘Pigeons 
are peculiar, and their habits must be studied by the netter if he would 
be successful. When they are feeding on beech mast, they often will 
not touch grain of any kind, and mast must be used for bait.’” (Wm. 
Brewster, 30b). This would be the situation particularly in the spring 
and destructiveness or otherwise would depend on the local natural food 
supply. Thus birds in the Bruce peninsula, a region famous for its beech 
forests, might have little interest in grain while the nuts lasted. 

In respect to fall crops the solution no doubt lies in the fact that 
pigeons were an early nesting species, and very often deserted the breed- 
ing colony as soon as the young could take care of themselves. These 
in their turn scattered over the country in roving bands so that by the 
time grain was ripening it would be a mere matter of chance whether 
a section of the country would be visited by destructive flocks or not. 

Pigeons were an important factor in the destruction of crops, but 
here is another aspect of the situation which is interesting. In the 


Quebec Bulletin des Recherches Historiques for February 1928 there is 
an article on ‘‘Tourtes et Tourtieres’’ by E.-Z. Massicotte (125). The 
author says: ‘‘Ainsi 4 Montréal l’intendant Antoine-Denis Raudot signa, 
le 22 juin 1710, une ordonance qui defendait a ceux qui allaient a’'la 
chasse aux tourtes’ d’entrer dans les terres ensemencées de blé, pois et 
autre grains. 

“Le 16 mai, 1748, l’intendant Hocquart defendait de ‘chasser les 
tourtes’ sur la terre de J.-B. Hervieux a la Pointe-aux-Trembles, a cause 
des dommages que |’on causait aux bois et aux semences.”’ 

The gist of this is that farmers had to be protected by law from 
pigeon hunters who were evidently causing as much damage to crops 
and woods as the birds themselves. 

Value as Food 

In spite of its admitted destructiveness the passenger pigeon may be 
justly claimed to have been of considerable economic value. It supplied 
food; its feathers were of use; it seems to have had a supposed medicinal 
value; and as a marketable commodity it was in certain localities a source 
of great revenue. In Ontario its foremost importance was as food. 

To the pioneers. Its place in the pioneer’s budget has already been 
indicated (page 21), and the following quotation confirms it. A letter 
from a Galt settler dated October 16th, 1832, tells of a very dry summer 
and an August frost killing the crops, and continues: “I must say, 
that I think we should have half died, if it had not been for the pigeons; 
we shot 30 of a day; one man shot 55 at 5 times; and he pitched a net 

and caught 599 at one draw. . .”’ (64). Not only were they secured 
by the individual for private use, but as soon as settlements grew up 
pigeons were for sale in the markets. In 1633 John Josselyn“’. . . bought 

at Boston a dozen of Pidgeons ready pull’d and garbidged for three 
pence’’ (98). While in Canada during the early years of the last century: 
“In spring the markets [at Quebec] are abundantly supplied with wild 
pigeons, which are sometimes sold much lower than the price I have 
mentioned: [ls. 6d. to 4s. per dozen] this happens in plentiful seasons”’ 
(05). | 

To the Indians. Indians, before the white man came, knew their 
value. They netted them, as will be described later, and Alexander 
Wilson (191) says: ‘“These [squabs] are so extremely fat that the Indians 
and many of the whites, are accustomed to melt down the fat for domestic 
purposes as a substitute for butter and lard.” 

“You may find several Indian towns of not above seventeen houses 
that have more than one hundred gallons of pigeon’s oil or fat.’”’ (John 
Lawson, 109.) 


In the refuse heaps of a prehistoric village site in Oxford county, 
Ontario, passenger pigeon bones were dominant among the bird remains 

Methods of Preparation 
Pigeons were prepared for the table in various ways. Mrs. Traill’s 
recipe for pot pie has already been given, and this type of pie seems to 
have been the most common method of cooking them. In fact the 
old ditty goes: 
When I can shoot my rifle clear 
At pigeons in the sky, 
I'll say good-bye to pork and beans 
And live on pigeon pie: 

Dr. R. H. Arthur of Sudbury says in reply to the question, ‘In what 
ways were they prepared for the table?’’—‘‘Nearly always as a pot pie, 
with lots of light pastry or dumplings, and a piece of fat pork (not fresh) 
to make gravy, as the pigeon breasts were very dry.’ Another in 
answering the same question, writes: “‘Pot pie, yum-yum!”’ 

They were also roasted, stewed, fried and made into soup. Young 
squabs were fried in their own fat. When the birds were plentiful the 
breasts only were used, and were prepared in various ways, sometimes 
fried in deep fat. Another method was to roll them in clay and bake 
them. ‘‘Hunters and maple sugar makers often cooked adult pigeons 
by roughly drawing and then enclosing the unplucked carcass in wet 
clay which was then covered with the embers and hot wood ashes. 

“When cooked the meat was removed from the covering of baked 
clay which kept with it all the feathers and most of the skin of the bird.” 
(Mr. M. W. Althouse, Toronto.) 

Mr. Althouse supplied a very full account on all topics, and I will 
quote from him again on the subject of food. In answer to the question, 
“In what ways were they prepared for the table?” he replied: ‘‘(a) stewed 
or fried, (b) salted and kept in brine for winter use, (c) salted (breasts and 
thighs), smoked, and dried for winter use, (d) parboiled, and made into 
pigeon-pie, a popular use for spring pigeons which were not so tender 
as squabs.”’ 

Salting for winter use was mentioned in the ‘‘Jesuit Relations” of 
1662-63 (176f): “‘But when the Pigeons were taken in requital they were 
made to pay the cost very heavily; for the Farmers, besides having 
plenty of them for home use, and giving them to their servants, and 
even to their dogs and pigs, salted caskfulls of them for the winter.”’ 

Mr. N. Pearson of Aurora describes another method: ‘‘My grand- 


mother was the first white woman to settle north of the Ridges [Oak 
Ridges, York county], and she told me about the way she prepared the 
pigeons. She had three sons and they rigged a net to capture the birds 
and they caught them by the score and fifties. She plucked and opened 
them and laid them in a mild pickle for a day or two. She had a large 
fire place with two cranes (stoves were not invented) and she hung the 
birds in the chimney in the smoke for a time and then packed them in 
tubs and barrels for future use. This was before cattle, pigs and sheep 
were common, and their meat was venison, fish and partridge, and the 
pigeons were good food.” 

It was stated in one reply that pigeons were usually cooked in a 
“dutch oven’’ as stoves were scarce. Mr. C. E. Corfe of the Museum 
staff tells me that his mother had one of these in England. He says it 
was a triangular affair made of tin, having two long sides in which were 
flaps which lifted up. It was placed before the fire and the flap on that 
side raised. When the contents were done on one side the oven was 
reversed, and the other flap raised. Another type was cowl-shaped, 
with an open face and a small spit inside, and hooks by which it was 
fastened to the fender. 

Use of Feathers 

Pigeons’ feathers were used to a certain extent for beds and pillows, 
and an American named Holt who netted pigeons in Victoria county, 
as a business, used to ship feathers out from that district. (Alex. 
Morrison, Kinmount, Ontario.) But Mr. Althouse says that the birds 
were more usually skinned than plucked. However, a French author 
writes: ‘Tout paysan avait alors la tourte au pot, et nulle fille de ce 
temps ne se mariait sans apporter en dot un lit de plume et des oreillers 
aussi, ce beau temps n’est plus, mais. . . on se marie toujours’”’ (133). 
Wm. Pope (147) says: ‘“‘The feathers of the breast are very good for 
stuffing beds.”’ . 

In this connection the following superstition is interesting: ‘“There 
was a woman I knew, she lived in Markham township. On her dying 
bed, they had to remove feather bed from under her, as she would not 
die on pigeon feathers.’”” (Wm, Metcalf, Ravenna, Ontario.) 

Medicinal Uses 

As far as I have ascertained there are only two instances of these 
birds being used in any way for medicinal purposes; the first being 
mentioned in a questionnaire: ‘‘The gizzards dried and powdered were 
steeped and taken, an old-fashioned but reliable cure for vomiting 
stomach.’’ (A. O. Garrison, Plainfield, Ontario); and the second being 


from an article on the passenger pigeon in folk lore (108): ‘“‘An old 
woman, part Indian, used to save the gizzard (gesier) when the pigeons 
were prepared for market, and would string them on a thread and hang 
them up to dry. The gizzards when dry became shiny and transparent 
and were used by this old woman, in the treatment of gallstones. The 
reasoning was as follows: the towrte would sometimes take up small stones 
(gravois, pronounced grawa) instead of grain, but that did not matter 
as its gizzard was strong enough to dissolve the stones. Therefore when 
the gizzard came in contact with the gallstones it would dissolve them 
too and cure the patient. My informant did not make it clear how the 
remedy was taken, but it is certain that it was taken internally as the 
gizzard had to come in contact with the stone.” 

In China there is another aspect of the pigeon, as a species, being 
favourable to health. Jade handles for walking sticks are sometimes 
carved in the form of a pigeon’s head, and the gift of such a cane to an 
old man implies the wish for continued good health, since the birds are 
supposed to possess special powers of digestion (65). 

Marketing of Pigeons 

Anyone wishing to know something of the scope and value of the 
pigeon trade should read Mershon’s book (131). He devotes several 
chapters to the subject and many of the figures quoted are truly astonish- 
ing. Pigeon hunting as a business came into existence about 1850, and 
at one time there were said to be five thousand professional pigeoners 
operating in the United States, and it was possible for the individual to 
make from $10.00 to $40.00 a day in the height of the season which was 
during breeding, a period lasting from March to July. The devastating 
effects of this trade upon the species will be discussed in the section 
dealing with extermination. 

In Ontario 

Canadians seem to have lagged behind their more enterprising 
neighbours, and there is no evidence of trade in pigeons which in any 
way approaches the proportions reached farther south. There are no 
doubt reasons for this which are not altogether based on lack of enterprise. 
Canada has developed slowly, and it is surprising to realize that pioneer 
conditions existed very largely until the last quarter of the past century. 
Until then men were still engaged in practical constructive work, making 
profitable farms out of clearings, and towns from tiny villages. The 
situation is summed up in the remark of a Manitoulin Island correspond- 
ent who said that pigeons ‘‘came at a time when there was something 
else to do than disturb game.’”’ The attitude was probably typical of the 


whole country concerning the commercial possibilities of the game 
resources, and it certainly applies in rural Ontario with regard to market- 
ing of pigeons as a business. The birds were of course killed in great 
numbers for food and sport in this province, but there seem to have been 
few instances of organized slaughter and sale. Mr. C. A. Fleming of 
Owen Sound says: “I never knew of them being sold. Every person 
had his old muzzle loading shot gun and could get a supply any time. 
People who shot more than they needed supplied their neighbours; 
or, as in Frontenac county: ‘‘Occasionally a boy would sell a few to buy 
ammunition. I never knew them to bring more than 25c. a pair.’’ Near 
the larger towns and cities, however, advantage was taken of the markets, 
and a considerable trade was carried on, some even shipping out of the 
country to Buffalo, Detroit and other border towns. 

To quote Mr. Althouse once more with reference to Middlesex 
county: “. . . we got bushels of them in summer and early fall, both by 
shooting and netting. Early in September and sometimes in late August 
people used to go to the roosting places in ‘second-growth’ pines with 
torches and long poles, and kill hundreds of fat young birds. Buffalo 
was our market, and shot pigeons were worth five cents each, and netted 
ones brought five-and-a-half or six cents a piece. We usually hung the 
birds in small lots of two or three over night, to cool off, and packed them 
in layers of straw in apple-barrels, and sent them, I think by express, 
consignee to pay all charges. My father’s net sometimes furnished three 
or four barrels in a single day. If I remember correctly a barrel held 
about 100 or 120 birds. Sometimes the netting season lasted two or 
three weeks. When the visible supply diminished it would not pay to 
have two persons attending a net. We never heard it was illegal to net. 
The birds were a nuisance to the farmers, a menace to the next year’s 
crop of wheat, and in some instances destructive to spring wheat then 
standing in stook.”’ 

A considerable business must have been done in the county, as Col. 
T. J. Murphy, living at that time in the region of Staffa in Perth, said: 
“South of where I lived they were shipped in car loads to Buffalo and 
New York.’’ Detroit would seem the logical market for these birds, 
but no doubt was glutted with Michigan birds, which must have been 
the case since pickled squab breasts were sent from even Lambton county 
to Buffalo. 

Simcoe, York, Lincoln and Welland counties were the other centres 
of the industry. A letter from Mr. Chas. Hebner of Orillia says: “I can 
distinctly remember the days when the passenger pigeon used to come 
and roost in the woods between the Nottawasaga and Pine rivers. That 
was just sixty years ago and I was then a boy of seven or eight years of 


age. They came in vast numbers for two or three years and then the 
numbers began to diminish until they disappeared altogether when I was 
about fifteen. The men who made a practice of marketing pigeons used 
to get us boys to climb up into the small trees, in which they were roosting 
at night, and knock them down with sticks. A blow on the head with 
a stick two feet or more in length would bring the pigeon to the ground. 
The birds were thrown into the barrels and shipped to Toronto and 
Montreal where I understood they were canned. The man for whom I 
used to work shipped as many as sixteen barrels in one day containing 
about 100 birds apiece. Sometimes the birds were not dead when the 
canvas cover was put on the barrel. The trees were small and this was 
one reason why boys were used to climb them. We used to be paid a 
cent a piece for all we killed, and I have made as much as $3 in one night 
even though I was only a boy.”’ 

In Toronto: “They were marketed. different places. Big 
bunches were handled in St. Lawrence market.’’ (J.C. Fretz, Vineland.) 
They were also sold to game dealers and hotel keepers, the usual price 
being ten cents each, or a dollar a dozen. 

Mr. J. M. Beamer, of Fenwick, remembers a family named Wylie 
who lived near Port Dalhousie and used to trap and net birds for the 
American market, by the thousands. In St. Catharines market they 
were sold, some being brought in and sold alive to be kept in pens until 
wanted. These birds brought from five dollars to ten dollars a hundred. 
(R. T. Nichol, now of New York.) 

In Welland county in the Bobtown locality, a Mr. Eastman used to 
catch thousands with stool pigeon and net, to be sold in Thorold town 
at ten cents a pair. (Geo. A. Phillips, Welland.) 

The fact that more organized hunting was not done in Bruce, Grey 
and Huron was no doubt due to their inaccessibility by rail. Many 
thousands of birds were killed there, and some were shipped out, as 
Mr. John Shaw of Thornbury in Grey says that: ‘‘People used to take 
them to Toronto, (100 miles). Price unknown.’’ And in Huron great 
loads of birds were carted away from the nestings, but no one seems to 
know where they were taken nor what was done with them. In Bruce: 
‘“‘Some were for sale, but I cannot remember the price,’ says P. J. Scott 
of Southampton. 

Professional pigeoners came occasionally to Canada from the United 
States. It has been told in another connection how Mr. Osborn of Alma, 
Michigan, came to a nesting ‘‘near Georgian bay”’ (13le), (Nesting Table, 
page 37). In Victoria county, Mr. Alex Morrison says: “It appeared 
to me that there was no close season for the wild pigeon as an old Yankee 
named Holt netted them all summer near our farm and I shot pigeons 


on his feeding grounds, as I considered I had as much right to shoot a 
few birds as he had to trap hundreds. Holt shipped some alive in crates 
and others he killed and sent to the city markets dressed.”’ 

Prices in Canada seem to have been much the same as in the United 
States. In this country according to questionnaire replies they ranged 
from five cents a piece to twenty-five cents a pair, and from five dollars 
to ten dollars a hundred. In the United States: ‘“‘The prices of dead 
birds range from thirty-five cents to forty cents per dozen at the nesting. 
In Chicago markets fifty to sixty cents. In fashionable restaurants they 
are served as a delicious tid-bit at fancy prices. Live birds are worth 
at the trapper’s net forty cents to sixty cents per dozen; in cities $1 to 
Fe Sley 

I think the fact that prices quoted in the United States are always 
on a large scale, 7.e., for dozens, hundreds, barrelfuls; whereas in Ontario 
they are mostly for single birds or pairs, is an indication of the difference 
in scale and importance of marketing in the two countries. 


From the sportsman’s viewpoint wild pigeons were fine game. A 
bright October day with a hint of frost in the air, a good old muzzle 
loader in hand, and pigeons flying and what more could man’s heart 
desire? The bird’s swiftness on the wing and its rolling, twisting flight 
made it no easy target and considerable skill was needed to bring down 
an individual. It was said to be useless to fire at a bird coming toward 
you, as the shot would glance off its very thickly feathered breast, so 
that it was best to wait until it was just by you before shooting. 

The time spent in recharging a muzzle loader must have been an 
aggravation with birds coming so thick and fast, and the difficulty was 
sometimes overcome in the following way: “‘It was said that the Oxley 
brothers, who were Englishmen and true sportsmen, did not fire into the 
flock, but each singled out his bird so as to avoid wounding indiscrim- 
inately. Breech loading fowling pieces were not common at that time, 
so some person loaded the guns, and expert shots did nothing but shoot.”’ 
(A. W. Reavely, Ridgeway, Ontario, concerning Welland county, Thorold 
township.) Everyone of course was not so expert, and many and varied 
were the means used to get pigeons—from bow and arrow to stool pigeon 
and net—but to everyone, no matter what his methods, pigeon catching 
Was great sport. As one of our correspondents says: ‘“‘Oh my, how we 
boys who loved shooting looked forward to spring and the flight of the 
Pigeon. Guess there was some stealing out of the guns and playing 
hookey instead of school for the sugar bush—and a good drink of sap 
after brushing away the leaves from the old wooden trough.”’ 


In this sport of pigeon shooting the Indians evidently excelled, using 
their native bows and arrows rather than guns, for in a letter in ‘‘Forest 
and Stream”’ (5) a correspondent says: ‘‘Perhaps there is nothing that 
will draw out a whole tribe of Indians, old and young, like a pigeon 
hatchery. . . .Here were gathered at different points most of the natives, 
old and young, from three or four tribes of Indians. Here the best 
archers from the Buffalo, Cattaraugus, and Alleghany reservations had 
met for a trial of skill. I am not well posted in the scores of modern 
times, but it was then and there that I say greater feats in archery than 
I ever witnessed before or since.’’ This refers to a nesting of pigeons in 
western New York State in 1823 that covered 180 square miles. 

Trap-shooting : 

One purpose for which pigeons were procured in large numbers was 
trap-shooting—and of all forms of so-called sport surely this is one of the 
lowest. It is one thing to hunt a creature in woods or field where it has 
equal chances of escape, but it is quite another to capture it, confine it, 
and then release it to be shot in its first ecstasy of freedom. 




a TRAP IS PLACED IN THE GROUND, the top level with the surface. When 
the cord is pulled one-half of the lid revolves within the Trap and DRIVES THE BIRD INTO 
THE AIR. Sportsmen willat once appreciate the advantages. Price $4. 

Agents: HARTLEY & GRAHAM, New York. 

An advertisement appearing in ‘‘Forest and Stream”’ in 1880. 

The details of the performance consist in the releasing of birds from 
traps, usually five in number, placed on the ground in a semi-circle around 
the marksman. The traps were sprung by means of a complicated 
system of cords and cogs so that it was impossible to tell from which 



one the bird would come. Rules of considerable number and diversity 
grew up as they do about any simple game, and these may be found in 
the constitutions and rules of the various gun clubs of the time. 

The history of the sport seems rather obscure, but apparently it 
originated in England, about 1790, where the Hurlingham and National 
Gun Clubs were its two famous supporters. Monaco was also a great 
centre, and international tourneys were held there, and still are, I believe. 
The first American club was formed in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1825, and 
from then on the sport gained in popularity until the country was swarm- 
ing with small and large shooting clubs. For many years live birds were 
used, the Blue Rock being the common species in England, while in 
America wild birds seem to have been most in demand, although glass 
balls were used to some extent and finally ‘‘clay birds’’ were invented, 
and are commonly used to-day. This latter change was brought about 
by legislation backed by public opinion against the cruelty of using 
live birds. 

In America the sport has a history that is interesting although un- 
pleasant in many ways. It seems to have become a mania toward the 
end of the last century, and the pages of such magazines as ‘‘Forest and 
Stream”’ are full of shooting match scores and accounts of tournaments 
which have a full flavour of the “good old times’’—‘‘The club members 
and friends left their elegant rooms at Harry Miner’s in carriages about 
noon, with all the conveniences for a good afternoon’s sport. . . .At the 
close of the contest a bountiful collation was partaken of at the hotel,” 
says this magazine concerning a Long Island event. 

Such friendly affairs were no doubt very harmless and pleasant, aside 
from the pigeons destroyed, but as so often happens, gambling and 
professionalism crept in with demoralizing effects. Large prizes of money 
were contested for, and in the case of professional shooters, the gate 
receipts were divided between the contestants. The following is interest- 
ing in this connection: 

“A challenge Accepted—Brooklyn, April 20, 1880. Editor Forest 
and Stream:—I notice Captain A. H. Bogardus issued a challenge to 
any man in America a short time since, previous to his going to England, 
in which he allows any man that accepts, to name the match, and he 
would wager two to one. I therefore accept his challenge and name the 
stakes $500 to his $1,000 for the following pigeon match: Fifty pairs, 
double risers, Long Island rules to govern; with the exception of find 
and trap for each other, or find substitutes. Match to take place at the 
Brooklyn Driving Park any time mutually agreed upon within one month 
from date. I have this day deposited with E. H. Madison, 564 Fulton 
Street, the sum of $100. Wm. King.” 

eT toe 


SPORT 10 83) 

Great cruelty was often displayed in the treatment of the birds. 
Should they not be sufficiently lively, a patch of feathers would be torn 
off their backs and essence, or oil, of cayenne put on the raw flesh, or 
pins would be stuck in their bodies, or adhesive plaster would be put 
over one eye so that they would fly in the desired direction. 

Naturally great numbers of birds were used, and although a defender 
of the sport maintained that ninety per cent. were tame birds raised for 
the purpose (not that this in any way lessened the cruelty) in reading 
through old accounts it is obvious that wild ones were preferred. Some 
idea of these numbers and also of the various opinions which gradually 
took shape concerning the sport are found in letters in ‘‘Forest and 
Stream’”’ for 1880. In the issue for April 22nd is the following: 

‘Editor Forest and Stream :— 

‘In a March, 1880, issue of Forest and Stream, picked up at random, 
which number, by the way, chronicles a comparatively light week for 
trap-shooting, I figure as follows, under the head of ‘Shooting Matches’: 

Whole numberof pigeons shot ati.i.4.....aneoeds 1,209 
Whole number of pigeons killed.................. 859 
Whole number of pigeons missed...:............. 300 

‘“‘At the head of some of the scores I notice ‘Birds very wild’; ‘High wind 
prevailing’; ‘Cold, drizzling rain,’ etc., which goes to show that March 
is not par excellence the trap-shooter’s month; so it is hardly fair to 
multiply the results of the week by fifty-two, and call the product a just 
ageregate of a year at the traps. However, for the sake of argument, 
let us strike a balance :— 

Whole number of pigeons shot at................. 62,868 
Whole-nuniber of ‘pigeons killed . 2... cou. whe 44,668 
Whole number of pigeons missed................. 18,200 

“Quite startling; and Forest and Stream quotes only a small percent of 
the matches going forward... . 

“. . . Are gentlemen doing right in encouraging the netting of these 
birds, by offering fancy prices for them? Is this doubtful industry of 
any practical good to the nation or individuals? On the whole, is not 
the netting of pigeons and their slaughter at the trap cruel, unmanly 
and unsportsmanlike? 

“But a few years ago wild pigeons were abundant, and plenty of 
really exciting sport could be had in pursuing them. Now, owing to the 
sudden and reprehensible mania for trap-shooting that has taken pos- 
session of our sportsmen, they are like the Messina quail, very scarce. 
Constantly pursued, they are melting away, and soon will be only known 
to natural history as an extinct species, and another generation, in 
traversing the corridors of the Smithsonian, will crowd about a single 


specimen of Ectopistes magratorius (if haply one be left by the trap- 
shooters for this purpose) and say: ‘Behold the bird our fathers sacrificed 
to a relic of barbarism called trap-shooting.’. . . .H. W. De L.” 

On April 29th a reply to the foregoing letter says in part: ‘‘His fear 
that trap-shooting will deplete the number of wild birds is also, I think, 
without foundation, because the opportunity to catch them is limited 
to two months of the year, and they are too delicate to stand much 
transportation or handling. Without doubt they are caught in great 
numbers for the market, but the proportion that run the gauntlet of 
the traps is small, as 90 per cent of birds killed in pigeon shooting are 
domestic. Knowles.” 

Again in the May 27th number: “De L. errs in ascribing to trap- 
shooting the decrease in birds. The suggestion that there is any decrease 
in the annual flight of wild pigeons is absurd; their fecundity is mar- 
vellous; it seems as if they were created by a kind Providence especially 
for the demand... . 

“Any apprehension, I think, of the perpetuity of the wild pigeon 
being limited or affected by trap-shooting is groundless. The only fear 
is that each year the roosts being farther from us, it costs more to get 
them here. Our State shoots will have to find some substitute. What 
shall it be?>—En Garde.” 

Other notes in ‘‘Forest and Stream’’ for the same year tell of the 
annual ‘‘conventions’’. Under the date of April 15th: ‘The Seneca Gun 
Club—Seneca Falls, N.Y. . . .The club is in a prosperous condition, 
and the managers are actively engaged with matters pertaining to the 
Convention. The Bird Committee are in correspondence with different 
parties in regard to pigeons, but in my judgment the contract will be 
given to either Phillips of Detroit [whose business is described in Mer- 
shon’s book (131d)], or Stagg of Chicago, both reliable dealers, who 
would furnish good birds.” 

But neither Phillips nor Stagg got the contract: ‘“‘The State Con- 
vention—Messrs. Parrish and Williams, of the Seneca Gun Club, Seneca 
Falls, have contracted with Frank Chaffey for the immediate delivery 
of 12,000 wild pigeons to be used at the coming tournament. One 
thousand birds have been shipped to the Monroe County Club, and will 
arrive this week. The Rochester Gun Club and several clubs in that 
vicinity have also ordered birds of Mr. Chaffey for practice. 

“Monday, May 24th, has been appointed as the date for the opening 
of the Convention.”’ 

There was already a movement against this sport; pigeon shooting 
was not allowed in New Hampshire, while in February, 1880, Rhode 
Island passed a bill prohibiting the same thing in that state. And in this 

SPORT ney 

same year an event occurred which seems to have been the beginning 
of the end of live bird shooting. For the week beginning May 24th, 
as intimated in the letters already quoted, at Seneca Falls, New York, 
was held the twenty-second annual convention of the New York State 
Association for the Protection of Fish and Game, and during the whole 
week conservation does not seem to have been even mentioned, but a 
great shooting match went on when the twelve thousand pigeons ordered 
from Mr. Chaffey, were shot at and no doubt mostly killed. This affair 
created a storm of protest, as may well be imagined, and called forth 
many interesting letters, some of which may be read in ‘Forest and 
Stream”’ for that year. However, the flurry seems to have died down, 
since the same thing, on an even larger scale, occurred the following year. 
This meet was held at Coney Island and twenty thousand birds were 
slaughtered, with the immediate result that a law was passed in New 
York State prohibiting shooting at “‘any live pigeon, fowl, or other bird 
or animal”’ asa target, or for amusement, or as a test of marksmanship— 
but adding: ‘Nothing herein contained shall apply to the shooting of 
any wild game in its wild state.’ This was a step in the right direction, 
particularly considering the influential position of New York State in 
the Union, but it was another twenty years before the use of live birds 
was abolished over the whole country. 

Trap-shooting 1n Canada 

In Canada the trap-shooting mania seems to have been of a somewhat 
less virulent type. According to Mr. John Townson it was a fairly 
common sport in Ontario, but scarcity of money prevented its being 
carried on in a large way as it was in the United States. The Toronto 
Gun Club, formed in 1871, was the only organization that could afford 
to buy wild birds for its shooting matches, and evidently this was more 
a matter of “‘good form’’ than of better sport, as Mr. Townson says that 
domestic pigeons were much harder to shoot, being in so much better 
condition than wild ones that had passed through the vicissitudes of 
being trapped and then confined for shipping. 

The Toronto Gun Club got its birds mostly from Buffalo, and they 
were sent across the lake by boat in crates containing about fifty individ- 
uals. These were obtained usually only in Apr.l, during a period of 
about three weeks, while the spring migration was on. The Club would 
use perhaps an average of four hundred birds in a day and a match would 
usually last three days. A record attendance at a tournament would 
be about fifty-five, while the usual number was about thirty. In the fall 
when the annual tournament was held, domestic birds would be used, 
as at that season it did not pay to net wild ones for this purpose. (Cf. 


Mr. Althouse’s report of netting in Oxford county, page 110—this being 
an instance of the local variability of pigeons). 

Mr. William Loane of Toronto, who made his living by hunting and 
trapping, and who had the contract for supplying the Queen’s Hotel with 
game, used to net pigeons north of Toronto for trap-shooting. His 
methods will be found under ‘‘Netting’’. 


Grand Pig , - atch, 

=_( a> & Sy <= 

ee ae 

Wing ar Mo ad OR 
Alt the Golden Lion Inn, Yonge- Street. 

A Grand Pigcon 

Will take place at Sheppard’s Inn, as above, on WEDNESDAY, 26th of 
SepremBer, instant. Upwards of Three Hundred Pidgeons are provided for 
the occasion, and it is purposed to give Three Prizes as follows ; 

a ale t 
~ AR /) 
a VLE « 
(ee = 
. =f 
Fa ‘\\ XS 7 
8) NN 
a Ye 
1), So 
tAN s 

For the Best Shot, a Prize of £10.—Second best do. £5.—Third do. do.—a Good Rifle!!! 
adr Shooting to commence at 11 o'Clock, before which Hour the Gentlemen wishing to 

participate in the Sport, will be required to enter their names, and to comply with such Re- 

gulations for the government of the Sport, as may be arranged amongst themselves after 

their arrival. 
Dinner will be on the Cable at 4 o' Clock. 

YORK, 16th Sept. 1833. 

(G. P. Bull, Printer, © Courier” Office, Market. House, Fork. 

The original of this advertisement has been loaned to the Royal Ontario Museum 
of Zoology by Professor E. W. Banting of the University of Toronto, and is reproduced 
here with his permission. 



Before embarking on the more than complex subject of extermination 
it might be well to give some idea of the various ways in which pigeons 
were caught, or killed—the mechanical details of the greatest contributing 
factor of their extermination. 

Early References 

Indians used nets as well as bows and arrows to take the birds, but 
whether the use of the former was learned from the white man is perhaps 
a matter of conjecture. Pierre Boucher (134) says: ‘There are birds 
of another kind called wild pigeons. . . .There are prodigious numbers 
of them. . . they are to be found everywhere in this country. The 
Iroquois take them in nets as they fly, sometimes by three hundred or 
four hundred at a time.’’ Peter Kalm (81) says: “The Savages in 
Onondaga had built their huts on the sides of this salt field, and here 
they had erected sloping nets with a cord attachment leading to the 
huts where they were sitting: when the Pigeons arrived in Swarms to 
eat of this salty soil, the Savages pulled the cords, enclosing them in the 
net, and thus secured the entire flock.” | 

These two accounts sound rather as though the Indians originated 
the idea—but the English took them in nets about 1660, and had done 
so for some time previously according to Josselyn (98). 

There are in early literature other references to pigeon catching which 
show it to have been an opportunity soon seized upon, as has indeed 
been obvious already in other connections. Quotations from the “Jesuit 
Relations” have been given previously and a narrative (176g), in this 
collection, of the Mission of Saint Joseph at Goiogonen says: ‘‘Many 
snares are set there for catching pigeons, from seven to eight hundred 
being often taken at once.”’ 

Guns of course were the most usual method employed, but I do not 
imagine that the following incident was of very common occurrence. 
It is taken from a “Narrative of a voyage to, and travels in, Upper 
Canada,” by James Taylor, 1846 (171): “Rock pigeons are sometimes 
very numerous in Canada. In the spring of the year, myriads of those 
dove-like visitors may be seen flying in the air. One of those prodigious 
flights came over Lake Ontario, in a direction for one of the garrisons, 
which being observed by the soldiers, a cannon was loaded with grape 
shot, and when the pigeons came within range, the contents were dis- 
charged amongst them, and made very great slaughter; hundreds of them 
fell into the lake, and furnished plentiful picking for their pursuers, who 
pulled off in their boats from the shore to gather them.”’ 


One or two other quotations are d propos before going into details 
as given in questionnaires. ‘‘A Backwoodsman,”’ Dr. Dunlop, (57), 
writing about 1832, tells of events at Toronto, then York; the infringe- 
ment of the law which is mentioned being evidently the fact of shooting 
within the town limits, as game was in no way protected in those days. 
‘Every person who has been in America has described the interminable 
flocks of wild pigeons; so I shall not trouble my reader on that score. 
Some two summers ago, a stream of them took it into their heads to fly 
over York; and for three or four days the town resounded with one 
continuous roll of firing, as if a skirmish were going on in the streets— 
every gun, pistol, musket, blunderbuss and fire-arm of whatever descrip- 
tion, was put in requisition. The constable and police magistrate were 
on the alert, and offenders without number were pulled upb—among whom 
were honourable members of the executive and legislative councils, crown 
lawyers, respectable, staid citizens, and, last of all, the sheriff of the 
county; till at last it was found that pigeons, flying within easy shot, 
were a temptation too strong for human virtue to withstand;—and so 
the contest was given up, and a sporting jubilee proclaimed to all and 
sundry.” . 

Robert Crichton says in “Impressions of Owen Sound in 1851” (50): 
‘For two or three seasons wild pigeons were very numerous, especially 
in 1853 and 1854. The sportsmen used to range themselves along the 
edge of the hill, and in the morning the shooting seemed like infantry 
practice, as the pigeons flew over the village from their nesting places 
on the hills to the westward. I remember the pigeons so numerous that 
they almost darkened the sun with the immense flocks. Large rookeries 
of them were in the neighbourhood, and they supplied the family pot 
of many an early settler. It is one of the strange things of nature that 
they have all disappeared.”’ 

According to local information that we have received, the methods 
used in Ontario were many and varied, ranging from a boy’s most 
primitive bow and arrow to a complicated netting system, complete 
with bough-house and stool pigeons. 

Bow and Arrows 

Arrows were used very rarely, judging from questionnaire replies— 
only five answers saying that they were. One from the Timiskaming 
district states that they were used there to save ammunition, as guns 
were used only when the hunter was sure of getting five or more birds 
at a shot. (Mr. Joe Moore, Wawaitin Falls.) Mr. Fleming of Owen 
Sound describes his method of making bow and arrows (66): ‘“‘We would 
select some nice straight cedar split into pieces about an inch square, 



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es =< 



and say eighteen inches long. A nail would be driven into one end of 
each piece, all the heads ground off and brought to a sharp point on the 
grind stone. Then arrows would be shaped out of these pieces of cedar, 
perhaps twenty-five or thirty to be ready for business when the pigeons 
came. A piece of straight grained rock elm would be found about four 
feet long and split and shaped up to make the splendid bows with which 
to shoot our arrows. 

‘Selecting a suitable spot where flocks often passed we would shoot 
the arrows into the flocks. If the sharp pointed arrow hit a bird, it was 
‘our meat.’ The arrow would stick and bring it down—that is when 
we managed to make a strike—of course there were so many air holes 
through the flocks, that if one out of a dozen arrows brought a bird it 
was considered extra good luck.” 


Shooting pigeons with a gun was evidently the commonest way of 
procuring them in this province. One hundred and ten replies give this 
as the method used in the writer’s locality. All kinds of guns were used 
from the cannon to the pistol, judging from our various sources of informa- 
tion; and shooting in times past was not the simple affair of to-day. 
Guns were muzzle loading and were by no means the mechanically perfect 
modern products—nor was.the gun itself the only problem :—‘‘Carried 
our shot and powder in flasks for powder, cows’ horns for shot.’’ (Alfred 
Lamb, Constable, Ontario.) 

Great tales are told of record shots and the numbers they brought 
down, but some I am afraid need to be taken with the proverbial pinch 
of salt to be at all digestible. As already told in a “‘Jesuit Relation” 
(176f) one man in the good season of 1662 accounted for one hundred 
and thirty-two at a single shot. Another Frenchman at a much later 
date is said to have secured ninety-nine with one discharge of his gun, 
and when asked why not a hundred he replied that he certainly would 
not lie for the sake of one small pigeon. Others tell more plausibly of 
thirty-nine or forty at a shot (this being the record for Walpole township, 
Haldimand county), or twenty-five, or eight killed and six wounded, 
while a Prescott county man once fired a shot and they gathered up 
of the pigeon fragments two pailfuls. 

As an example of youthful prowess Mr. N. Pearson of Aurora tells: 
‘““My leisure on Saturday was my own time for the pigeons, and I went 
out nearly a mile one day at about 10.30 and came in before noon with 
twenty-four. Not much of a bag, but for a boy not ten years old it was 
satisfaction.’’ And this is how he did it: ‘“‘I lit on a field of pea stubble 
and had a small beech for a foreground with a thorn in the pease patch, 

one aeteae 



and in a very little time the birds appeared and in the first shot there 
fell eighteen which I picked up and retired to the beech tree, and looking 
up I saw two birds in proximity and I let off my gun, and instead of two 
down came six which I had not seen.”’ 

Another account is in Mr. C. A. Fleming’s newspaper article (66): 
‘Arriving at the age of ten years the old single barrel shot gun was avail- 
able after careful instruction as to how to load it, fire it and care for it, 
and a few lessons as to how, where and when to shoot. It was no use 
to fire at a flock when coming toward you. The shot would glance off 
those thickly feathered, highly polished breasts, and you would scarcely 
ever see one fall—but just turn around and get them when they were 
going away from you, and you would get your birds from one to half a 
dozen at a shot. . 

‘‘Another way was to get them after they lit on the top rail of a zig-zag 
fence. A neighbour bought a new gun. A very nice patent breech gun 
with a highly polished walnut stock, the finest in the settlement. He 
would be out early in the morning to get a shot at the pigeons that would 
light on the rail fences, but he never could get more than one bird at a 
shot. Before this he would often be given three or four by some of us 
boys when we had taken from six to a dozen at a shot from the top of a 
fence before he got his new shooting iron. 

“One fine morning he seemed anxious to trade his new one for my 
old weather-worn plug breech gun that cost $3.50 when new. I knew 
my father would not allow any trade of that kind, so I picked up his 
gun, loaded it from his powder and shot flasks and waited my chance. 
Presently a flock lit on the fence within easy range. I moved away a 
little to get my position, and fired and handed him his gun and eleven 
birds. He had been getting in a line with the rail on which they perched, 
and of course only got the end bird, but taking them on the angle it was 
easy enough to strip off the whole line.”’ 

Telling of a Bruce county colony, the ‘‘Paisley Advocate”’ said (152): 
‘The place is visited by scores of persons who are shooting the pigeons, 
and all the shot in Owen Sound and Southampton seems to have been 
fired away as a telegram has been received in Paisley asking for a supply.”’ 

Even worse than having no shot was the predicament of Alexander 
Dingwall Fordyce of Fergus, who said writing to his father in June, 
1835 (196): “‘. . . at this season there is no difficulty in getting a dinner 
of pigeons, of which there are great Flocks, but I have not yet got 
spectacles so I might as well have no gun.” 

Mr. Townson tells of pigeon shooting in Toronto in the early days: 
“Tt might be explained that shooting on Sunday in those days was not 
uncommon, especially when the pigeons were flying. Also at that time 


there was a large tract of open ground extending from St. James Cemetery 
over to the end of Bloor Street, where the old blockhouse stood on the 
crest of the ravine where the Sherbourne Street bridge is now located. 
This open stretch of ground was a favourite place for the local gunners 
to wait for the pigeons as they lowered down after passing over the city, 


and for many years was known as ‘Pigeon Green’. 


Although the commonest method of taking pigeons in the province 
was by use of the gun, the net was employed to a considerable extent, 
and evidently in several different ways. Mr. Althouse gives a good 
description of one of them: 

‘““(a) a@ nei with a mesh about three inches stretched diagonally. 
This net would be fully 100 feet long and about 40 feet wide. One edge 
was pegged down with crotched twigs, while the opposite edge was 
lightly leaded, and folded back on top of the pegged edge. 

‘“(b) A pair of strong spring-poles, set to throw the free edge of the 
net over the 

‘““(c) prepared bait-bed, covered with chaff or cut straw among which 
a plentiful supply of shrunken wheat or pease was scattered. 

‘“(d) A stool-pigeon, securely tied to a tilting stick or board, so that 
when the heavy end was lifted by the trapper, the bird would flutter. 
We used a ‘winged’ pigeon for a starter stool-pigeon; but took a fresh 
one from succeeding catches. 

‘Feeding flocks flying near saw the stool-pigeon apparently lighting 
to feed, and followed suit. 

“Often the baited space would be left un-netted for a day or two until 
fresh flocks got used to feeding there. 

‘When the net was sprung most of the pigeons upon the baited area 
would be caught, and as the meshes were large enough to allow heads 
and necks to come through, but no more, very few struggled clear. 

“The approved method of killing the catch was by biting the head 
just back of the eyes. It was not necessary to break the skin, the crush- 
ing of the base of the skull killing the birds instantly. 

‘Some people closed the eyes of the stool-pigeon by stitching the 
eyelids with a fine silk thread; but my father regarded this as a needless 
cruelty. The stool-pigeons usually became pretty tame in a week or so, 
and generally ate pease freely after the second day of captivity.” 

Mr. Townson described to me the method used by Mr. Loane at 
Toronto, which was practically the same as that described above, and 
directed the drawing of the accompanying sketch as illustration. 

. me Ge 


The net was attached to the poles by heavy iron rings which by their 
own weight, added to that of weights along the front edge of the net, 
slipped instantly down the poles to the ground when these were released 
by pulling a cord which ran to a nearby hide. About 1873 Mr. Loane 
used to trap pigeons on the open lands north of what is now Danforth 
Avenue. The district was called ‘‘The Plains’’ by Toronto people, and 
belonged, Mr. Townson thinks, to the Church, and consequently lay 
vacant and uncultivated for many years. It was covered with a con- 
siderable growth of scrub oak which seemed to come in on lands cleared 
of original pine forests, and the acorns attracted pigeons in the spring. 

a : Pole, Released .— 
See eee which weighted 
Fait ront edge of net 
hep gttached at, pee 
YH batted ground. 
ole, hack edge , (There would be 
Pegged to / two poles, one at 
ground. / either end of the 
/ net ) 


ot —_— oo 

fs iach ef ee re 

pole ts Sprung. deep filled with grain 

Diagram of method of netting pigeons as described by Mr. Townson. 

' Another method is shown by the sketch on page 126, which is repro- 
duced from that contained in Mr. Christopher Stephenson’s report. 

This shows a ground plan of the arrangements, while the section 
at the upper right gives a side elevation of the part which lifted the net 
up and over the birds. Mr. Stephenson says: ‘“There was only one 
person in the neighbourhood [Halton county, Nelson township] that used 
the net. I remember going to see the kind of arrangement he had. 
I was only a young boy then but boy-like wanted to see how it was done.”’ 

The nets themselves were evidently much the same as a seine net 
used for fish. Dr. R. H. Arthur of Sudbury says: ‘The net was usually 
made by sewing together two strips of ‘seine’ 15 or 20 feet long and 
10 to 12 feet wide—bound around edges with withes. .. .”’ 

The Royal Ontario Museum of Zoology has a net donated by Mr. 
Abram H. Culp of Beamsville, Ontario, and used by his grandfather, 
S. R. Culp of Vineland. This is of the seine type with a mesh of four 


inches, and is roughly twenty feet long by ten feet wide, a net which 
would not make any very great hauls. 

A correspondent, Mr. Difenderfer, describes how nets were made: 
‘Pigeon nets were woven by hand, 2 inch mesh, of medium size seine 
twine. 40 by 60 ft. was regular size, some were longer and some wider. 
The shuttle was made from hickory; was 12 in. long, 124 wide, and 3/8 
to 4 in. thick. Cord was wound on shuttle around prong in centre 
and cup inend. Shuttle would hold about 100 ft. of twine.”’ 

Elevation to Paise 
Net over Pigeons 






> wan Pole and to Ground 

er es 
f 4) ii: 
<< 1 2 Sane er 
Stool- Pigeon ve Wile at ioe hie 
ON laa iGrain. 
% f ‘ : ee se 
Ley eae ae 
iY) £ x eS 


Diagram of method of netting pigeons as described by Mr. Stephenson. 

Different situations were chosen for bait-beds, some setting their nets 
in an open field and building hides of corn stalks or branches, while 
others made use of local shelter as described in a Welland county report: 
‘‘As the fences were all rail, father would hide on the other side, when 
the pigeons would alight to feed on peas, buckwheat or wheat, as the 
feed might be. . . .When the pigeons came along the net he would pull 
the string; down would go the net. Then he would hold tightly on the 
string or tie it to the fence, then get busy reaching underneath it and 
grab all you wanted. Sometimes there would be so many birds under 
the net it would raise a foot high in the centre.’ (Garnet G. Laur, 
Bridgeburg. ) 

Grain was used as bait and sometimes artificial salt beds were pre- 


om ¢ 


pared. We have no record of this latter custom in Ontario, but as it 
may very well have been used here I will quote an account, ‘‘How the 
Marsh Beds were Prepared to Attract the Birds,’’ from French (75): 
‘‘The ground was spaded and raked over as in the making of a garden, 
then a quantity of salt was scattered over and whipped into the earth 
with a brush until it was thoroughly mixed. The pigeons would eat 
this ‘muck’ with a relish. This mixture doubtless aided the birds to 
digest their rich diet, which consisted in the main of beech nuts and 
black-jack acorns. The salt was applied about every other day in small 
quantities to freshen the ‘muck’ bed.”’ 

Netting in Ontario 

There follows a list of Ontario counties in which netting was done; 
the numbers indicate the number of times it was reported in answers 
to our questionnaires from the various counties. 

Dufferin, 1; Durham, 1; Elgin, 1; Essex, 1; Grey, 3; Haldimand, 1 
(with stool pigeon, 10-40 at one haul); Halton, 1; Hastings, 2 (one reply 
says ‘‘only a few nets’’); Kent, 1; Lincoln, 3 (one with stool pigeon); 
Middlesex, 1 (we know from other sources that netting must have been 
done commonly in this county) ; Ontario, 1; Prince Edward, 1; Victoria, 1; 
Waterloo, 1; Welland, 5 (one with stool pigeon); York, 3 (one similar to 
Jack Miner’s crow net). 

These numbers are really not very satisfactory, as it is generally 
impossible to tell whether the information in a reply refers to the whole 
county or merely to the locality known to the writer. As I think I have 
indicated before, personal knowledge of the country fifty years ago was 
very localized; travel was so arduous, roads so bad, means of transport 
so slow and uncomfortable, that a man wasted no time in merely ‘“‘seeing 
the country”, and so knew very little of his distant neighbours’ doings. 
However, the numbers given must be to a certain extent indicative of 
the prevalence of netting since the highest numbers come from regions 
where we know pigeons were exported or were very numerous. 


Besides netting there were many other methods used to capture 
pigeons. Trapping was done to some extent but few particulars can 
be given as most correspondents failed to supply any details of the ways 
in which it was done. Miss Pollard of Tillsonburg says: ‘“‘Mostly 
trapped in a big box about the size of a waggon. Grain was put under 
the box, the box being raised about a foot from the ground, with props 
to which ropes were attached. The trap was usually set on a high knoll 
near the edge of the woods and when all ready, the trapper would hide 


behind a tree or stump until the birds came for the grain, and when all 
he wanted were in the trap, he would pull the rope and let the box drop 
over them. It had a slat top, through which he removed them to kill. 
Everyone preferred the trapped ones for eating as there was no danger 
of them biting into shot.”’ 

These box traps were sometimes made with netting tops. 

Trapping was done in the following counties in Ontario, according 
to our records: 

Essex, one record; Grey, three records; Hastings, one record; North- 
umberland, one record (kept alive in pens until needed); Oxford, two 
records; Welland, one record. 

As pigeons so often came in the spring about sugar making time sap 
troughs were sometimes employed as traps, no doubt when the birds 
were in too great numbers to be resisted, and when no other means of 
catching them was at hand. ‘‘We boys used to trap the wild pigeons by 
means of a sap-trough set on edge. What a thrill of delight to see this 
down! The poor captives were drawn forth and their necks wrung with- 
outa pang. Thoughtless cruelty of boys. Icouldn’t doit now. I hate 
even to see anything killed’ (128). 

Other Methods of Taking Pigeons 

As has been described before, pigeons had a habit of sometimes flying 
very low over hill tops, barn roofs or other eminences, and people often 
posted themselves at such points of vantage and knocked the birds 
down with clubs, poles, or branches. This was apparently done quite 
commonly as eighteen of our questionnaires refer to it, and it is mentioned 
now and then in the literature. Wm. Pope (147) refers to it as a way 
of taking tired birds that flew very low after crossing Lake Erie. It 
seems a slow and wearisome method, but perhaps it was done in those 
days to save powder and shot which were none too plentiful. Roosting 
birds were also knocked from the perches by sticks as described by Mr 
Hebner in the section on marketing; and young birds were taken from 
the nests either by day or by torch light at night. 

Snares were used in Glengarry and Simcoe counties, but no details 
of the methods are given. Near Stouffville, York county, they were 
caught “‘by placing a platform up about 8 feet from the ground and 
putting sticking wax on, and some wheat for them to eat.’’ (Mr. David 
Clarke, Stouffville). In fact, every means for destruction that human 
ingenuity could devise was employed. One or two of the more unusual 
of these are interesting. A correspondent from Carleton county says 
that his brother told him ‘“‘that when he was a boy they would build 


houses out of the sheaves of grain and catch them by the legs and pull 
them in,’’ presumably the boys hiding inside the houses. 

Chief Justice Latchford of Toronto says: ‘‘One method used in Hull 
was to lash a long dry pole to a limb used as a roost. From the tip 
of the pole a line led to a hide. The pole was drawn back and when the 
limb was sufficiently occupied the line was released and the pole knocked 
the birds from the limb.”’ 

Mr. William Teskey of Orillia writes: ‘‘During potato harvest it was 
sport to get a tough gad, point it, put a potato on it, and hurl the missile 
at the continuous flocks of pigeons. We lost many potatoes, but secured 
very few pigeons.”’ 

Mr. George A. Reid, the artist, of Toronto, told me that when he 
was a boy he was sent one day to a neighbour’s to borrow the sheep- 
shears. Coming back along the road pigeons began to fly over his head, 
so low as to be more than tempting. Almost instinctively he tossed up 
the shears he was carrying and to his great surprise down came a pigeon. 


It is now generally recognized that many species of mammals, birds 
and insects show a more or less regular fluctuation in numbers. Some 
vary from one month to another, others in a yearly cycle; and others 
again have a maximum and minimum which may cover several years 
from peak to peak. 

The fact that wild pigeons were so numerous in a certain locality 
in one year and almost absent in another might lead one to believe that 
they experienced such fluctuations. Perhaps they may have done so, 
but from the information at hand it is impossible to be quite positive 
either one way or the other. However, certain deductions can be made 
from the available data. ‘‘Pigeon years’’, that is, years when the species 
was noticeably abundant, occurred, according to some people, every 
three or four years; others say, every five or six years, and Mr. Townson 
of Toronto thought they were more numerous every six or eight years. 
From this it might appear that the numbers of the birds rose and fell 
in a somewhat irregular cycle, but I do not think this was the case, and 
for several reasons. Pigeons were, as is being continually reiterated, 
highly erratic in their movements, largely influenced by food supply, so 
that it is an obvious conclusion that when they were scarce in one place 
they were numerous in another. This is clearly shown to have been the 
case in the table of nesting records, and it has also been pointed out that 
very large nestings took place simultaneously in several localities. So 
that scarcity or absence in a given region even over a period of years is 
not necessarily an indication of reduced numbers. 



Another more definite and interesting proof of comparative constancy 
of numbers was found in the following way. I madea list, from question- 
naires, etc., of the years in which pigeons were said to be unusually 
numerous and found that they had been so, in varying localities, every 
year between 18538 and 1879. Also many of our correspondents say 
that the number of pigeons in their locality was regular from year to year. 
There is therefore no clear evidence that the species was characterized 
by any unusual periodic fluctuation in numbers. 


Theory of Sudden Disappearance a Fallacy 

The idea is very prevalent that passenger pigeons vanished from the 
face of the earth with amazing rapidity—that they were abundant one 
year and gone the next—and in consequence many and strange tales 
have been spun to account for their disappearance. They were reported 
to have been all drowned in the gulf of Mexico, or in the Atlantic, or in 
Lake Michigan. It was said that they flew to Australia, or South 
America; that they were all consumed in a great forest fire in Wisconsin; 
that they flew to the north pole and were frozen; or that they were 
poisoned wholesale in the southern States. These are some of the stories 
that have arisen, but they are fantastic and ridiculous. One or two of 
them no doubt originally contained a grain of truth since many pigeons 
undoubtedly were drowned in the Great Lakes and elsewhere during 
foggy or stormy weather, just as are other species of birds. Also forest 
fire was an element in their destruction, as will be shown presently. 
But the greatest argument against complete destruction of the species 
in any such manner lies in the fact that all the passenger pigeons in the 
country were not contained in one flock but, as has already been proved, 
great flocks occurred simultaneously in widely separated localities. To 
drown or burn them all would have necessitated an almost continent- 
wide flood or conflagration. 

With these fallacies disposed of, and the matter carefully considered, 
it becomes quite clear that the extermination of the species was a pro- 
longed affair, having its beginning in the earliest days of the white man’s 
arrival on the continent and slowly gathering impetus through the years, 
coming to a grand finale in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. 

The first mention of the early settlers’ effect upon the pigeons seems 
to be that of Josselyn (98) about 1660, when he says: ‘‘But of late they 
are much diminished, the English taking them with nets.’ In the next 
century Pierre Francois Xavier de Charlevoix says in a letter dated at 
Montreal, April 22, 1721, to the Duchess of Lesdiquieres (99): ‘“The 


other article I mentioned, is the sort of wood-pigeon which used to come 
hither in the months of May and June, as was said, in such numbers as 
to darken the air, but the case is different at present. Nevertheless, 
a very great number still come to rest themselves upon the trees, even 
in the neighbourhood of the towns... .” 

Peter Kalm (81) says that the birds were being driven into the wilder- 
ness by man’s habitations and by his destruction and through competition 
for food with the swine so commonly turned into the woods to feed on 
acorns. In 1765 Samuel Smith (161) mentions this latter fact in his 
history of New Jersey, as already quoted in another connection. 

John Lambert (105), also quoted before, says: ‘‘. . . but the immense 
flocks that formerly passed over the country are now considerably 
diminished; or, as the land becomes cleared, they retire back.’’ This 
being between 1806-08. 

In 1841 Sir Richard Bonnycastle (26) says: ‘‘The sportsman finds 
few snipe, woodcock, pigeons or plover in comparison with former years.”’ 

And so in many places in the early literature and on down into our 
own times the theme is that flocks and nestings of wild pigeons were 
never as large as they used to be in the “old days.”’ What ‘‘my father”’ 
saw in his youth was not to be compared with what “his father’’ had 
seen, and although, as I have pointed out, numbers tend to grow in 
retrospect, I think in this case it was an actual fact. At first in the 
seventeenth century the decrease must have been almost imperceptible 
to anyone who could have viewed conditions from the broadest stand- 
point. As Josselyn said they may have been appreciably scarcer in the 
settled areas, but this was undoubtedly due much more to change of 
locality than to actual diminution of numbers. It would quite probably 
be several generations before the white man’s destruction had its marked 
effect on the species. But once its influence was felt it swept on with 
the gathering force of an avalanche until the final overwhelming outburst 
of market hunters and trap-shooters of the late nineteenth century. 

Disappearance in Oniario 

When the full extent of this destructive movement is realized, as it 
should be from the discussion which ‘is to follow, it is quite evident that 
details which we possess of the disappearance of passenger pigeons in 
Ontario form merely a facet in the whole. In the list of last appearances 
which follows there are, aside from Fleming’s already well known records 
(68-70), few that have the definite scientific value of being backed by 
available specimens. However, many are without doubt entirely 
reliable; and even when dates are only approximate, comparison with 
last appearances from other regions, such as those recorded by Mershon 


(131)), Barrows (15c) and Forbush (71a), shows the Ontario trend to be 
similar. Last large flights were seen during the ’70’s._ Last groups and 
individuals were noticed from about 1880 on, with an occasional flock of 
considerable size still appearing sporadically in the ’80’s. Records con- 
tinue with diminishing frequency until 1900, after which the majority 
are of very doubtful value. 

Last reported appearances in Ontario 

Information in the following list of last appearances is taken in 
most instances directly from questionnaire replies. A few items are 
included which are decidedly vague, but are the only data from the 
locality to which they refer. e 

1870—Welland county. April. Last large flight in the vicinity of Font- 
hill. Lasted two days. See Migration Flight Table, and also 
compare below for the year 1883. Reported in questionnaire by 
A. W. Reavley, Ridgeway, Ontario. 

1872 c-—Lambton county. Last large flight. Reported verbally by 
A. M. Thoman, Arkona, Ontario. 

1872 c.—Dufferin county. Last large flight. Lasted two and a half 
days. Reported in questionnaire by Robert Reid, Camilla, Ontario. 

1874—York county, Toronto island, April 3 or 4. Last large flight over 
Toronto. Described by John Townson in article read before the 
Brodie Club, Toronto. See also Appendix. 

1876 or ’77—Middlesex county. There went “. . . great flocks to the 
east or northeast and never returned.’’ Reported in questionnaire 
by Peter Anderson, Strathroy, Ontario. 

1878 c.—Frontenac county. Last large flight. Reported in question- 
naire by Professor W. T. MacClement, Queen’s University, Kingston, 

1878—Welland county. Small flocks were ‘‘to be seen as late as the year 
1878.’ Reported in letter by Geo. A. Phillips, Welland, Ontario. 

1879 c.—Hastings county. Last large flocks flew to the east in the spring. 
Reported in questionnaire by A. O. Garrison, Plainfield, Ontario. 

1880 c.—Grey county. “In about the year 1880 there came quite late 
in the evening, a very large flock and roosted in a bush near our 
house, in number we thought about 100,000—they left again early 
in the morning.’’ Reported in questionnaire by John D. McArthur, 
Meaford, Ontario. 

1880—Grey county. ‘‘The last pigeons near the village of Leith [near 
Owen Sound] were killed by John Thomson, father of Tom Thomson 
the artist, in the year 1880. He killed two. For three years 

19 Sete wy 7 


previous to 1880 not one pigeon had been seen.’’ Reported in 
questionnaire by James P. Telford, Owen Sound, Ontario. 

1880 c.—Manitoulin Island. ‘Seen about 1880.’’ Reported in ques- 
tionnaire by Dr. R. Moore, Fort Frances, Ontario. 

1881—Durham county, near Bowmanville. A stray pigeon or two about 
in September. Letter dated September 12, from ‘‘Au Sable’’ (John 
W. Dutton (58b)). 

1881 c.—Peterborough county, one mile east of Lakefield. August. 
Fourteen shot. The last the writer saw in that locality. Reported 
in questionnaire by Dr. Alex. Bell, Toronto. 

1881—Wellington county, Guelph. ‘‘The last wild pigeon that I saw— 
a lone hen—was in July, 1881. It sat on a dead branch on top of a 
tree near the river opposite where the Ontario Reformatory now 
stands.” Howitt (93). 

1882—Essex county, Point Pelee. ‘In 1882 my stay there extended 
through the last days of August, and a week or so in September, and 
during that time we often saw small flocks. . . running up to per- 
haps fifteen or twenty. They would rush up the Point or down. . . 
at a speed which was all their own. . . I have one specimen from 
that trip, although we shot several. It is a male, labelled August, 
1882.” W. E. Saunders. Quoted in Taverner and Swales (170). 
See also list of Specimens in Ontario Collections. 

1882 c.—Hastings county. ‘‘Last one seen or heard of was shot by me 
in the fall, in October, about 1882, at Coe Hill.’’ Reported in 
questionnaire by W. H. Wilcox, Toronto. 

1882-1884—Northumberland county. Still scattered flocks during these 
years. Reported by Mr. John Townson in Brodie Club article and 
also verbally to the author. See Appendix. 

1883—Haldimand county. Last record April 9, 1883. McCallum (117). 

1883—Thunder Bay District. Long Lake region. “Very scarce.” 
Borron (27a). 

1883—Welland county. ‘‘Wild pigeons are reported to have made their 
appearance in very large quantities in the cedar swamps, about 
twenty miles from Niagara Falls, Canada.’’ Letter from “C. E. L.”’ 
dated at Suspension Bridge, N.Y., March 20, 1883. ‘Forest and 
Stream’’, 1883 (103). 

1883—York county. ‘In September, 1883, I was shooting woodcock in 
the vicinity of the Rouge river I saw a pigeon flying overhead through 
the tree-tops, which I brought down and discovered that it was a 
female passenger pigeon in splendid condition. This specimen, the 
last I shot, was given to the late David Herring, but have no idea 


what ultimately became of it.’’ John Townson, article read before 
the Brodie Club. See Appendix. 

1884—Carleton county, Ottawa. June 6. A male shot in Cummings 
Woods, Ottawa. E/ifrig (62). 

1884 c.—Dufferin county. Very large nesting occurred. See Table of 
Nesting Colonies. 

1884—Lennox and Addington county. “In 1884 killed my last two. 

But a year or so later noticed a wounded one around part of the 

) i summer. Quite tame.’’ Reported in questionnaire by Nelson 
Instant, Stella, Amherst Island, Ontario. 

1884—Hastings county. Two shot, in early fall, by E. Brooke-Daykin 
then living in Madoc. 

1884—Wellington county. ‘The last passenger pigeon that I saw was 
in the spring of 1884.’ Reported in questionnaire by Robert 
Pasmore, Rockwood, Ontario. 

1884—York county, Toronto. ‘The passenger pigeon still occasionally 
visits the region where once dense clouds of these birds used to cover 
the fences and trees.’’ Mulvany (136). 

1885—Bruce county. ‘‘Scarceashens’ teeth.’’ ‘“Tamarack’’ (169). 

1885—Carleton county, Ottawa. June 28. Female and one young shot 
near McKay’s lake, Ottawa. 
May 10 and August 25. A male seen in Col. W. White’s garden, 
Ottawa.) Wioyd (tiie): 

1885—Middlesex county, London. ‘‘The latest record of birds that 
probably bred in the London district is that of 3 or 4 birds, a male, 
female and young, which were seen and the female and one young 
shot, about 15 miles east of London, on September 24th, 1885.” 
Saunders (22c). 

1885—Ontario county, Washburns island in Lake Scugog. October. 
One seen. Reported in questionnaire by Mr. John Townson, Toronto. 

1885—Perth county, Listowel. June 10. Eleven seen and ‘‘odd ones 
seen since.’’ Kells (100). 

1885—Simcoe county. September. “I was out hunting ruffed grouse 
with an uncle. Isawa pair of pigeons alight on a hemlock tree about 
60 yards distant. He took my gun and aimed between them and 
both fell. These were the last shot in our section—September, 
1885.’’ Reported in questionnaire by Mark Robinson, Algonquin 

1886—Carleton county, Ottawa. April 15. Twelve seen at McKay’s 

lake, Ottawa. 
May 24. One seen at McKay’s lake, Ottawa. E/jfrig (62). 


1886—Halton county, near Campbellville. A few pairs breeding. 
Brooks (33). 

1886—Middlesex county, Strathroy. Practically gone from this region. 
Barrows (14). 

1886—Ontario county, Myrtle. “. . . July 4th, 1886, when I saw the 
last male wild pigeon alive near Myrtle Station on the C.P.R. north 
of Whitby. When the train stopped to take water a male pigeon 
came to quench his thirst and, after doing so, flew up to the fence 
and started to preen his feathers. Then the engine started, and 
I had my last look at a live wild pigeon.’”’ John Townson. Article 
read before Brodie Club, Toronto. See Appendix. 

1886—Wentworth county, Beverley swamp. One shot, April 26. Shot 
and recorded by Dr. K. C. Mcllwraith, of Toronto. 

1887—Algoma district. ‘‘The last pigeons in my experience were in 
Algoma in 1887. I killed not a few in the region of Echo Bay, and 
up the Echo river and at Findley Bridge where I was camping for 
a week.’’ Reported in letter by Mr. N. Pearson, Aurora, Ontario. 
1887—Carleton county, Ottawa. August 23. One seen in Col. W. 
White’s garden, Ottawa. 
September 3. One seen at Kettle island, Ottawa. E/ifrig (62). 

1887—Simcoe county, Wasaga Beach. ‘‘In 1887 I was picking blue 
berries near Wasaga Beach. My father and mother and I saw seven 
Pigeons, the last we saw of these birds.’ Reported in questionnaire 
by Mark Robinson, Algonquin Park, Ontario. 

1887—Victoria county. ‘Last fall while shooting in the northern part 
of Victoria county my companion had the luck to kill one of these 
beautiful birds, it being the first one taken in that district for several 
years, although they may be seen occasionally.” W.C. L. (104). 

1888—Cochrane district, Moose Factory. Aset of eggstaken. Macoun 

1888—Dufferin county. ‘““They were killed September, 1888.’’ Re- 
ported in questionnaire by D. Nelson Phillips, Laurel, Ontario. 

1888—Middlesex county, Wyton. March 29. Diary says: “. . . .Also 
saw a wild pigeon.’’ Thisislast record. Reported in questionnaire 
by Frank L. Farley, Camrose, Alta. 

1888—Muskoka District. Shot in fall of 1888, one male. Reported in 
questionnaire and verbally to the author by Alfred Kay, Port 
Sydney, Muskoka. 

1888—Renfrew county, Renfrew. “I shot a bird of this species about 
three miles west of Renfrew, Ontario, in September, 1888. (Rev. 
C. J. Bethune).” J. & J. M. Macoun (121). | 


1888—York county, Locust Hill. About May 24th. One shot by 
Daniel Cox. (Reported verbally to Prof. J. R. Dymond, Royal 
Ontario Museum of Zoology). 

[1889— Michigan, Mackinac Island. ‘‘A large flock was seen feeding in 
beech woods, August 30, 1889, after which they were frequently seen. 
About a hundred were observed September 10, and on September 12 
the main body departed. But a few individuals were present when 
I left [September 24]. None were observed in 1890 or 1891.” 
Stewart Edward White (190).] 

1890—Wentworth county, Aldershot. One female collected by H. B. 
Dickson. A mounted specimen now in the Royal Ontario Museum 
of Zoology, donated by Mr. Paul Hahn. 

1890—York county, Toronto. May 12. Humber island. One male 

seen by Wm. Cross (52). 
September 20 and October 11. An immature female taken on each 
of these dates. That taken on October 11 being now in the collection 
of Mr. J. H. Fleming (70). The September 20 specimen is also 
recorded by Edmonds (60). 

1891—Algoma district, two miles northeast of Dean Lake Station. One 
pair seen about the end of May, or first week in June, near the 
Mississagi river. Reported in questionnaire by Dr. R. H. Arthur, 
Sudbury, Ontario. 

1891—Carleton county, Ottawa. Rare, breeds. Lees, Kingston & J. 
Macoun (110). 

1891—Hastings county, Belleville. June. One male shot. Reported 
verbally by Allan Twining, to J. L. Baillie, Jr., of Royal Ontario 
Museum of Zoology. 

1891—York county, Toronto. ‘April 13, saw a male specimen in Uni- 
versity Park Ravine, which I pursued for half an hour but failed to 
collect.” “Atkimson+ (7): 

1892—Sudbury district, Lake Kenogamissi. One seen late July. S.R. 
Clarke (45). 

1898—Grey county, St. Vincent township. “In 1893 at north end of 
St. Vincent. There were three that summer that visited Deer Lake 
spring on high clay banks on east side. Were seen often at spring 
and grain fields, but they failed to come again.’’ Reported in 
questionnaire by Wm. Metcalf, Ravenna, Ontario. 

1893—-Lambton county. August 15. Someseen. ‘Blue Beech”’ (25). 

1895—Grey county, Collingwood township. ‘‘The last wild pigeon seen 
by me was on the back end of my father’s farm about the middle of 
August, 1895. I saw one pair that year.’’ Reported in question- 
naire by Alex. Dey, Brownsburg, P.Q. 


1896—York county, Toronto. April 15. A flock of thirteen, all females 
or young, seen in High Park. Reported verbally by Geo. Pearce to 
J. L. Baillie, Royal Ontario Museum of Zoology. 
October 22. Eleven seen on Wells Hill by J. Hughes Samuel. 
Fleming (68). 

1898—Frontenac county, near Kingston. A small breeding colony, 
perhaps 20 birds. See Nesting Table. Reported in ‘‘Rockwood 
Review,’ Nov. 1898 (22c). Also by Professor MacClement of 
Queen’s University, and probably by Dr. C. K. Clarke to Nash (1387). 

1898—Middlesex county, Glencoe. “....Mr. D. C. Black, Appin, 
Ontario, writes recently [1898]: ‘I saw nine in a wheat field near the 
village of Glencoe, and they are the first I have seen in twenty-five 
years 2 4. Ward: (183), | 

1899—Dufferin county, Orangeville. ‘‘A flock of ten seen on Easter, 
1899.’ Calvert (35). 

1900—York county, Etobicoke creek. May 16. Flock of ten seen by 
O. Spanner. Fleming (68). 
Centre Island, Toronto. July 6. Five seen by J. Hughes Samuel. 
Fleming (68). 

1902—Simcoe county, Penetanguishene. May16. Oneseen. May 18. 
One pair seen. All three seen by A. L. Young. Fleming (68). 

It would seem superfluous to comment in any great detail on this list. 
The matter of last appearances has been gone into very thoroughly in 
other publications, and nothing here either adds very materially to, or 
contradicts, conclusions already arrived at. Even the large nesting of 
about 1884 is not startling news, for French (75a) reports a great nesting 
in Pennsylvania in 1886; Barrows (15c) tells of some twelve hundred birds 
nesting near Lake City, Michigan, in this year, and of thousands appear- 
ing at Cadillac in the spring of 1888; while in 1889 even as far east as 
Maine flocks of pigeons were still to be seen (32). 

As to the nesting of 1898 near Kingston, it is recorded on very good 
authority, and as there were obviously pigeons still existing in 1900 I see 
no reason for their not attempting to nest somewhere, however un- 
successfully, during these last few years. 


Probable Immediate Cause 

Perhaps the disappearance of the passenger pigeon will always have 
a slight element of mystery about it. It is difficult for the human mind 
to grasp the fact that a creature, once so numerous, could vanish utterly 
and completely from the earth. It is, however, becoming increasingly 


clear that no one agency was entirely responsible for the disappearance, 
but that it was brought about by a combination of circumstances. 

The most immediate of these concerned the optimum of the species. 
For each species of animal there appears to be an optimum number, 7.e., 
a density of population at which it thrives best—as well as a maximum 
and, in some cases, a minimum. It is easy to understand that there 
should be a maximum, as it is obvious that only a certain number of 
individuals can exist in a given locality under given circumstances. But 
that a minimum should be reached below which a species cannot survive 
is much more difficult to explain. 

Elton (68b), in discussing this phenomenon, cites as an example of 
its operation the fact that in the Lake Victoria region of Africa, tsetse 
flies occur on all the islands of the lake except on small ones below a 
certain size. On the small islands there are no flies, although conditions 
are apparently just as favourable, showing that the insects cannot exist 
in numbers below a certain level and so do not occur at all in a space 
too small to support this number. 

It is therefore suggested that the disappearance of the passenger 
pigeon was due to the reduction of their numbers below the minimum 
at which the species could exist. No one has yet given a satisfactory 
explanation of why such a result should follow serious numerical reduc- 
tion, except that a psychological effect appears to be involved in it. 
With the passenger pigeon it seems to be a case of a creature used to 
living in the ‘‘grand manner’’ whose way of life was so upset and reduced 
that it could not carry on in straitened circumstances. Such a result, 
of course, does not always follow. Some species are more adaptable than 
others and are able to persist in greatly reduced numbers, or if conditions 
become more favourable, to become numerous again. That the passenger 
pigeon lacked this necessary adaptability is indicated by the observations 
of Whitman (39f). He found it much duller than other species of pigeons 
which he kept in captivity. It seemed to be a slave of instinctive habit, 
for he says: ‘“‘The passenger pigeon’s instinct is wound up to a high point 
of uniformity and promptness, and her conduct is almost too bluntly 
regular to be credited even with that stupidity which implies a grain of 

This theory is also most satisfactory in accounting for the suddenness 
with which the species finally disappeared, that is, during the twenty 
years between 1880 and 1900. Elton (63a) says: “*. . . great abundance 
is no criterion that a species is in no danger of extinction. Just as an 
animal can increase very quickly in a few years under good conditions, 
so on the other hand it may be entirely wiped out in a few years, even 
though it is enormously abundant. The argument that a species is in 


no danger because it is very common is a complete fallacy.’’ And this 
applies perfectly to the wild pigeons whose sudden end has heretofore 
been made believable only by rather unsatisfactory theories, or by the 
invention of wild tales. 

Indeed, there is no doubt in the author’s mind that this upsetting 
of the balance of Ectopistes migratorius’ equilibrium of life was the final 
factor contributing to its extinction and I think it may be made clearer 
by the following discussion of the lesser factors. It will also be shown 
that the upsetting was done directly by man and not by indirect effects 
of civilization. 

Clearing the Land 

Clearing of the land was the first act of the settler and the business 
of the lumber-jack, and had a decided local effect upon the nesting and 
roosting of wild pigeons. As Lambert (105) said: ‘‘As the land is cleared 
they retire back.’”’ This fact has been brought forward and emphasized 
by many writers as a primary cause of disappearance, and so it was, but 
not of destruction. It undoubtedly drove the flocks to new nesting sites, 
further from the settlements, causing local ‘‘disappearance’’. And being 
forced to leave certain regions probably had a subtle adverse effect upon 
the species. Although pigeons were wanderers it seems apparent that 
once their course was set it was held rather tenaciously, and perhaps 
arriving at a favourite nesting site and finding it burned or cleared would 
upset considerably their physiological arrangements for the season. 
Whitman says that they were easily disconcerted in this way. One 
adverse experience was sufficient to break up roosting habits and incuba- 
tion activities. ‘‘Pigeons are very constant to their chosen roosting 
places, but when once molested in these they do not forget it the next 
night’’ (39e). 

In Ontario clearing of the land had its inception at the beginning 
of the nineteenth century. At first the Crown took the best timber, 
chiefly pine, and then granted the partially cleared areas to the settler. 
The practice went on for many years, most of southern Ontario being 
cleared by this method; and it was really not until about 1860 that 
commercial lumbering was well established. Until 1870 logging activities 
centred chiefly in the Ottawa valley, then moved westward toward 
Georgian Bay and thence northward. It was a slow process and it was 
almost 1900 before there was any great development of the industry 
in the north. 

Forest fire seems to have been a far more destructive element in 
Ontario. Since the history of the province began almost fifty per cent. 
has been burned at one time or another, and in some sections, such as 


the Rainy River district and the Kenora region, the damage has been 
excessive, eighty-one per cent. of the former section having been burned 
over in the past sixty years, or since about 1870. Here and in the United 
States this fire devastation must have had some effect on the species, 
both in actually destroying nestings and in changing habitat. And yet 
it is felt that in spite of this, in spite of the alarming proportions of fire 
statistics and of changes attendant on settlement and lumbering, there 
was still, at the end of the nineteenth century, ample shelter and food 
left in Canada and the United States for great numbers of pigeons. Not 
perhaps sufficient for the support of the prodigious flocks of the early 
days, but at least enough for the maintainance of a considerable remnant. 

A few more statistics may serve to support this theory. In Ontario, 
even to-day, thirty-three per cent. of the province is mature forest, uncut 
and unburned for probably seventy-five years or more (157). Forty or 
fifty years ago this percentage must have been considerably higher. 

From an edition of Rand, McNally & Company’s “Indexed Atlas 
of the World” (151), published in 1883, the following figures are taken 
showing the amount of wooded country in various states. They are of 
course very generalized, they give no indication of the type of wood, how, 
or where it was growing, and much of it was no doubt unfit for pigeon 
population, but they give at least the idea that there were still, at that 
date, great expanses of forest in the northern States where pigeons bred. 

Maine was estimated to have 10,000,000 acres of pine forests; Ver- 
mont, 1,386,934 acres of woodland; Massachusetts, 930,402 acres of 
woodland; New York ‘‘was formerly covered with forests and these are 
still extensive although the State is one of the most densely populated 
and best cultivated in the Union’; Pennsylvania, 5,740,854 acres of 
woodland; Ohio, 5,101,441 acres of woodland; Indiana, about one third 
forest land; Michigan, still apparently well wooded, although being 
rapidly deforested. 

From all this argument it would seem then that it was not the actual 
removal of forests that affected the species; but the indirect effect of 
forced change from a customary habitat may have been disturbing and 
detrimental and probably contributed just so much more to the wrong 
side of the balance. 

Barrows (15d) thinks that the cutting of pine, beech and oak woods 
was disastrous in that it deprived the birds of their most important source 
of food, but it could hardly have been so since clearing produced other 
food conditions that were highly favourable to them. As land was 
cleared grain fields increased, and waste clearings usually produce abun- 
dant crops of berry bushes—raspberries, gooseberries, huckleberries, etc., 
which seem to have been relished by pigeons almost as much as their 


acorn-beechnut diet. In Ontario at least, the commercial cutting of 
maple, beech and birch was very localized, due to difficulties in trans- 
portation. So that one most important item of pigeons’ diet, the beech, 
would be slow to go, and as has been pointed out before, it still exists in 
considerable quantities in certain parts of Ontario. 

Another theory advanced by Barrows (15d) as a sequel to the changes 
wrought by clearing the land, is that in consequence wild pigeons were 
forced to nest farther and farther north. He suggests that here their 
early nesting habits would frequently encounter spring snow storms, and 
these, coupled with short summers, would make nesting less and less 
successful the farther north the birds were driven. The data that we 
have for northern Ontario are brief and few, but they give no indication 
of pigeons nesting more commonly in later years. Indeed from the 
general trend one would be inclined to judge that they were here, as 
elsewhere, more common in the early days. It was 1772 when they 
‘“‘abounded”’ at Moose Factory (74) and about 1883 Borron (27b) found 
no signs of nesting in the Moose river basin. 


Disease has been suggested as an important element in destruction. 
‘Hog cholera’’ and a form of ‘‘diphtheria’’ have been described as carry- 
ing off wild pigeons in enormous numbers in various localities. A great 
deal of evidence for the diphtheria argument has been gathered by 
Thompson (174), which seems to indicate that as the species was weaken- 
ing it became susceptible to disease, and in this connection it is pertinent 
to note that Thomson (175) states that the English wood pigeon fre- 
quently suffers epidemics of a form of diphtheria, the ‘‘symptoms’’ of 
which are similar to those described in the pamphlet just mentioned. 

It is of course also possible that some poultry or domestic pigeon 
disease may have been transmitted to Ectopistes. Frequent mention is 
made, by our correspondents and in the literature, of wild pigeons coming 
to feed in barn yards and around farms where grain or chicken feed was 
in tempting quantities. In this way parasites or bacteria could be easily 
spread among them and would probably have disastrous effects as is so 
often the case with an introduced disease. That such transmission is 
possible is evidenced by the studies of Gross (82). Indeed he believes 
that the introduction of blackhead by pheasants among the heath hens 
was to a great extent responsible for the latter’s extermination. 

It is unfortunate that no scientific investigation of reported disease 
among passenger pigeons was ever made. In a normal state they were 
certainly subject to sufficient checks in other ways. They were not 
prolific, even if they raised two or three broods in a season. Their nests 


were frail and poorly built, causing high mortality amongst the young. 
Squabs when newly out of the nest were unusually fat and clumsy, being 
fair game for their natural enemies. Early migration led to heavy 
casualties from late snow storms. All these should have been quite 
enough to keep numbers within bounds and make epidemics unnecessary. 

Man’s Destruction of the Species 

When the white man came to America with its teeming wild life, 
from the very outset he shot, trapped and killed every wild thing he 
encountered, from the squirrel to the buffalo. At first hunting was for 
_ food, to supply the often dire need of the struggling colonist, but as time 
went on and life became somewhat more secure, hunting became more 
organized as a sport and thus far more destructive to wild life. In various 
places we read of what were called “‘squirrel hunts,’’ when the men of a 
neighbourhood would go off for perhaps a week’s shooting, during which 
time anything was considered game. __ Here are the figures for one day’s 
‘squirrel hunt’’ bag as related by Weld (184): “1 wild cat, 7 red foxes, 
29 raccoons, 76 woodchucks, 101 rabbits, 21 owls, 42 hawks, 103 par- 
tridges, 14 quails, 39 crows, 4,497 gray, red, black and striped squirrels, 
25 wild ducks, besides unnumbered pigeons, jays, woodpeckers, etc.”’ 

As has been shown throughout this treatise, wild pigeons came in for 
more than their share of destruction and their extermination supplies 
probably the best example known of the relentless power of man’s 
stupidity. To the first arrivals in America it was quite inconceivable 
that the numbers of passenger pigeons could ever be lessened and even 
to us now it seems surprising for men to have brought about the dis- 
appearance of all the pigeons seen by Audubon and Wilson in their day, 
even in the seventy-five years left between Audubon’s observations and 
the days of ‘“‘last appearances.’’ But-the secret of the puzzle lies very 
largely in the fact that men had access to the nesting colonies. If 
pigeons, like many of our ducks, had nested only in the most northerly 
parts of their range, they would have survived for many more years, 
particularly if spring shooting had been abolished. 

Spring shooting of any species is obviously disastrous. It cuts off 
the capital and of necessity reduces the income, or rather the out-put, 
and not only were passenger pigeons subjected to this on the widest and 
most devastating scale, but they were never free from persecution at any 
time of the year. The fat squabs were always considered a delicacy, 
young birds in the summer were much sought after, and adults were 
taken everywhere at any time. 


Markei Hunters 

Although the battle was continuous since the earliest days of the 
English and French settlements, it reached its culmination with the 
advent of the market hunter, who put in his appearance about 1840 and 
spread over the country with the development of the railways. For the 
next forty years these men carried on their business, increasing in number 
each year, and were assisted in their work by all the improvements of the 
age—better roads, telegraphic systems, refrigeration, and so on. 

The best idea of the scope of the trade can be obtained from Mershon’s 
collection of letters and articles on the subject (131), and even a most 
superficial reading gives the vivid impression that no species of living 
creature could have survived such persecution. Not only does it seem 
more than sufficient to have disastrously upset the balance of the wild 
pigeons’ optimum, as suggested, but it becomes a surprising fact that 
even a limited number were left surviving until the end of the century. 

Mershon’s figures are only of the official slaughter, and while it was 
going on private individuals were still decimating their local flocks and 
visiting their nearby nesting colonies, killing for sport and food, supplying 
their friends and salting down the surplus for the winter. Mershon’s 
pages are full of very damning evidence, both circumstantial and direct, 
and one of the most interesting sets of figures is in the reprint of an article 
by Martin (124). This was written as refutation of the results of an 
investigation carried on by Professor H. B. Roney at the great Petoskey 
nesting of 1878. Mr. Roney apparently estimated that one million five 
hundred thousand dead and eighty thousand live birds had been shipped 
by rail from this nesting quite exclusive of those sent by boat, and other 
means, or taken by Indians, and Mr. Martin hastens to correct such 
shocking exaggeration. He says: “I have official figures before me, and 
they show that the shipments from Petoskey and Boyne Falls were: 

Petoskey, Glad, DY iEXPleSSic..y. ac. seine lee ee 490,000 
Peresicey, ave. DY. EXPT essi.. . ivace, af side os ee the Se 86,400 
Rees Fle ea tad teak. Sic, « sksiaph «oo. zie One 47,100 
Wyma AMV, cam orstn. Sessa: x ie ee ws 42,696 
Petoskey, dead, by boat, estimated........:.... “110,000 
Petoskey, alive, by boat, estimated............. 33,640 
Cheboygan, dead, by boat, estimated........... 108,300 
Cheboygan, alive, by boat, estimated........... 89,730 
Other points, dead and alive, estimated......... 100,000 



“This may be set down as accurate or nearly so, and 1,500,000 will 
cover the total destruction of birds by net, gun and Indians.’’ A mere 
bagatelle as compared to Mr. Roney’s over-estimation! 

Another quotation will serve to stress how widespread and persistent 
this business was. Osborn (13le) writes: ‘In 1861 a large body of birds 
were in Ohio roosting in the Hocking Hills, my first year out [as a market 
hunter] we were at Circleville, and my company shipped over 225 barrels, 
mostly to New York and Boston. The birds fed on the corn fields. In 
1862 the birds nested at Monroe, Wisconsin. We commenced in May 
and remained until the last of August. The several companies put up 
some ten thousand dozen for stall feeding after the freight shipment. 
Express charges on each barrel were $7 to $9. In the fall of 1862 we had 
fine sport shooting birds in the roost at Johnstown, Ohio (now Ada), 
some four weeks. Then the birds moved to Logan county. After two 
weeks the birds skipped south, it being December and snow on the 

“In 1863 the birds nested in Pennsylvania. We had some fine sport 
at Smith Port and Sheffield. . . .In 1864, at St. Charles, Minn., we had 

some fine sport, but our freights were high to New York, so we came to 
Leon, Wisconsin. A heavy body was nesting in the Kickapoo woods, 
and several companies of hunters located here. In 1865 a heavy nesting 
was in Canada. . . .We next went to Wisconsin, where a heavy snow- 
storm broke up the roosts. We were at Afton, Brandon and Appleton. 
We then went to Rochester, Minn., the end of the railroad. . . .We then 
went to Marquette in the Upper Peninsula and camped on Dead river. 
A heavy body had got through nesting, but worlds of birds were feeding 
on blueberries. 

‘In 1866 the birds nested in a heavy body near Martinsville, Indiana. 
We caught some birds at Cartersburg. After we closed up in Indiana 
we went to Pennsylvania. There was a heavy nesting near Wilcox, at 
Highlands. In gathering squabs five of us got a barrel a piece, which 
netted us $75 to $100 per barrel in New York. They struck a bare 
market.’’ And this tale continues year by year until 1878, and when 
one considers that it is only one pigeoner’s story and that there were 
estimated to be about five thousand operating throughout the United 
States and to some extent in Canada, it does not seem so strange, mys- 
terious and unexplainable that passenger pigeons vanished from the earth. 

Contemporary Opinions on Extermination 

It is of interest to see the various theories and opinions that were 
brought forward while this organized and wholesale destruction was 
going on. There were a few thinking people who were also observers, 


and hwo realized in what direction affairs were tending, but the majority 
seem to have obstinately held the opinion that pigeons, and indeed most 
of the wild life of the country, were inexhaustible. Benedict Révoil, the 
French huntsman, was among the thoughtful, and in writing of his 
adventures in America, which evidently took place between 1840 and 
1850, he says (55): 

‘“‘As the reader will infer from the foregoing remarks, this variety of 
game [passenger pigeons] is, in America, threatened with destruction. 
In proportion as civilization extends into the vast wilderness of the West, 
men increase in number, and the human race, which everywhere reigns 
despotically, and permits no restraint upon its tyranny, gradually 
destroys the communities of animals. Already the deer, the goats, and 
the great horned cattle which peopled the ancient colonies of England, 
have almost disappeared in the principal states of the Union. The herds 
of bison which a hundred years ago pastured peacefully on the savannahs 
beyond the Mississippi see their ranks thinning daily; while the skeletons 
of their fellows, slain by trappers and emigrants and Indians, whiten on 
the ground, and mark the gradual advance of man. Everything leads 
to the belief that the pigeons which cannot endure isolation, forced to fly 
or to change their habits as the territory of North America shall become 
peopled with the overplus of Europe, will eventually disappear from this 
continent; and if the world endure a century longer, I will wager that the 
amateur of ornithology will find no pigeons except in select museums of 
Natural History.” 

About the same time (1850) Strickland (166) says: “I have been 
informed that this breeding place [in Fenelon township, Ontario] has 
been deserted for several years, owing to the settlements having ap- 
proached too near to please the winged possessors. 

‘This satisfactorily accounts for the decrease I have noticed amongst 
these feathered denizens of the forest, during the last seven or eight years. 
In consequence of their having been disturbed, they have sought a more 
remote breeding-place. I am not at all certain whether this decrease is 
general through the province; but I feel quite convinced that, as civiliza- 
tion increases, all kinds of birds and wild animals will become less 
numerous, with the exception of crows and mice, which are greatly on 
the increase.” 

On the other side there is the report of a select committee of the 
Senate of Ohio in 1857, on a bill proposed to protect the passenger 
pigeon (143): 

“The passenger pigeon needs no protection, wonderfully prolific, 
having the vast forests of the north as its breeding grounds, travelling 
hundreds of miles in search of food, it is here to-day and elsewhere to- 



morrow, and no ordinary destruction can lessen them, or be missed from 
the myriads that are yearly produced.”’ 

And the following reasoning is even more strange (12): 

“They disappeared quite suddenly from some cause which is yet 
undiscovered. It is customary, even among ornithologists, to claim that 
they were exterminated by man, as the bison were, but all the evidence 
is against this. At the State Sportsmen’s convention held in Utica in 
1873 wild pigeons were used as targets. From my scrapbook I find that 
the number of birds shot at during the two days of this convention was 
2,860, in the regular matches. There were probably sweep-stakes and 
outside matches requiring many more. So cheap were they that my 
recollection is that the price for sweep-stakes was only 25 cents per bird 
shot at. Up to that time, therefore, and probably for a year or two after 
they were common enough to be used by thousands for targets at State 
Association meetings. [As has been shown already, they were ‘“‘common 
enough” up to 1880, and afterwards, for this purpose] Ten thousand were 
purchased each year, I am informed,... 

‘“ |. The records of others, marketmen, dealers and observers, show 
that these birds nested in millions, perhaps billions, in the States about 
the Great Lakes, yearly, up to 1878. During this year they were killed, 
trapped and shipped alive and dead in as great numbers as ever (a million 
and a quarter birds from one district). It seemed impossible that these 
immense numbers could be much reduced except by years of persecution. 
[Perhaps the author thought the million and a. quarter birds would be 
resurrected to produce a supply for 1879]. But the next year, 1879, 
the birds did not return to their usual nesting places. It was supposed 
that they had gone further west or further north and the scouts of the 
hunters and the trappers would soon discover the nesting place again. 
But though searched for thoroughly by those who, being financially 
interested, spent time and money liberally, they were never found and 
the few birds which occurred throughout the country, though no longer 
disturbed continued to diminish in numbers till they have entirely 
disappeared. .. .”’ 

It is obvious of course that Mr. Bagg’s last argument is based on 
misinformation—pigeons nested in Michigan and other States and in 
Canada for many years after 1878, and they certainly must have been 
“disturbed” as birds continued to appear in markets until the early ’90’s. 
The destruction at Petoskey in 1878 did seem to give the final push to 
the slowly descending balance, but Bendire (21a) sums up the situation 
which prevailed during the last twenty years of the century when he says: 

‘In fact, the extermination of the Passenger Pigeon has progressed 
so rapidly during the past twenty years that it looks now as if their total 


extermination might be accomplished within the present century. The 
only thing which retards their complete extinction is that it no longer 
pays to net these birds, they being too scarce for this now, at least in the 
more settled portions of the country, and also, perhaps, that from con- 
stant and unremitting persecution on their breeding grounds they have 
changed their habits somewhat, the majority no longer breeding in 
colonies, but scattering over the country and breeding in isolated pairs.”’ 


We are so accustomed now to employing legislation for the protection 
of wild life and for the saving of species whose numbers are reduced that 
it is natural to wonder what part the law played in the history of the 
passenger pigeon. 

The first law which affected pigeons favourably was one passed in 
Vermont in 1851 which protected all non-game birds all the year round 
and imposed a fine of one dollar for each offense in the destroying of 
nests or eggs. 

Other laws dealing directly with wild pigeons prohibited shooting and 
netting within varying distances of nesting colonies, breaking up of nests, 
etc., in various States; but it is quite apparent that they were usually 
ignored and seldom if ever enforced. And there was an early law in 
Massachusetts (1848) that protected netters from disturbance, imposing 
a fine of ten dollars and damages on anyone frightening pigeons away 
from nets. The Ohio opinion that pigeons needed no protection seems 
to have been the prevalent one. It was not until 1897, which as we know 
now was much too late, that Michigan declared a closed season of ten 
years on the species, and in 1905 it was put in the non-game bird class 
and so obtained year-round protection (142a). 

Apparently it was not protected in Ontario until too late. The Small 
Bird Act of 1887 contains the following: ‘‘No Birds, except game birds, 
eagles, falcons, hawks, owls, wild pigeons, black birds, crows, English 
sparrows and ravens to be at any time killed or molested. . .’’ and from 
then until 1897 it is included in all such lists of exceptions. At this date 
the birds protected in the province were ‘‘wild native birds (other than 
game birds, English sparrow, hawks, crow and blackbirds)’’ and as 
pigeons do not seem to have been put on the list of game birds they no 
doubt received protection at this time. 

In Quebec they were not protected in 1899 and might still be trapped 
or netted there at that date (142c); and they were unprotected in Mani- 
toba by the revised statutes of the province for 1891 (142b). 

Thus there seems to have been little effort by legislation to save the 


species from extinction, due perhaps to several reasons. In the early 
days of game laws, pigeons were apparently too numerous to conceivably 
need protection. Then the species became so commercially important 
that it was in the interest of market hunters and trap-shooters to keep 
it unprotected; and finally it was considered by many people in the same 
class as sparrows or blackbirds, either too common to notice or too 
destructive to warrant protection. 


Ectopistes migratorius was a gregarious species, migrating and nesting 
in enormous numbers, but nesting also, as do many gregarious birds, in 
small colonies and even in scattered pairs. It was wide ranging, occurring 
from the Atlantic seaboard to the Rocky Mountains and from the 
Mackenzie district to the gulf of Mexico. 

It was seemingly erratic in its appearances, being governed by food 
supply—abundance of mast or other food usually assuring its occurrence 
in a given locality. 

Arrival and departure were variable in date, being again controlled 
largely by food supply. In spring the species would appear in the breed- 
ing areas any time between March Ist and June Ist. After nesting the 
immediate vicinity of the nesting site might be deserted at once, or the 
site might be used as a roost throughout the summer. Flocks of various 
sizes wandered after nesting and these sometimes gathered in large 
numbers in some central locality from which there would be a general 
exodus in the fall. 

The autumn migration was more desultory than the spring and 
probably covered a period from the end of September until well on into 
November. Under favourable conditions birds were known to stay 
during the winter in the more northern parts of their range. 

Nesting took place normally in large colonies, often many square miles 
in extent, which comprised practically any species of tree that would 
hold the nests. These were frail affairs placed commonly near the trunk 
of the tree and at varying heights although more usually in the lower 

The eggs were pure white, one or two in number. Male and female 
shared in brooding and feeding the young, and alternated in these duties 
with great regularity, the cocks being on the nest between 10 a.m. and 
4 p.m. approximately. The incubation period seems to have varied, 
perhaps due to weather and food supply, and apparently ranged from 
twelve and a half days (as with Whitman’s captive birds) to about 
three weeks. The young were quite helpless on hatching, and for a 

Lire HISTORY 149 

period were fed a secretion from the parents’ crop known as pigeon’s 
milk and later with regurgitated food. The squabs remained in the nest 
for about two weeks, and were very fat and clumsy on first leaving it. 

The number of broods seems to have been variable, but at least two 
were usual; and it is highly probable that a new nest was built for the 
second brood. Nesting took place throughout several months, although 
the period in any one locality might be quite short. Colonies could be 
found any time between early March and late July according to the 

Large roosts were frequently formed to which the birds repaired at 
night; in fact, it is probable that if sufficient evidence could be obtained 
it would be found that each nesting colony had an adjacent roost. 
Centralized roosting also occurred after nesting was over, either in the 
roosts already formed or in new locations. 

The passenger pigeon fed largely on vegetable,material, eating mast, 
berries of many kinds, grain, and roots, and it also ate, on occasion, 
worms, grubs and caterpillars. In ground feeding the species exhibited 
the rotary habit common to some terrestrial feeders, that is, they moved 
over the surface with a broad front, the birds in the rear continually 
rising and flying forward to settle in advance of the front ranks. They 
drank, as do all pigeons, without lifting the head. 

Although seemingly erratic in their yearly appearances and non- 
appearances, in their daily life they had many firmly fixed habits. They 
were very faithful to their roosting, feeding and drinking places, and 
would follow the same route with great regularity, each day, to and from 
these various localities. And in their migration flights, the route, once 
taken, would be held for several days by the successive flocks. 


Specimens in Royal Ontario Museum 

Definite locality unknown 
91-11-1-912, o&, 1889, Ontario. Purchased. 
04-11-1-146, &, Ontario. Donor Lady Gzowski. 
Dufferin county 
35-4-26-2, about 1865, near Orangeville. Donor Paul Hahn. 
Elgin county 
33-11-22-1, 1857, Paynes. Donor Paul Hahn. 
Frontenac county 
30-6-17-2, 9, Kingston. Donor E. Beaupre. 
30-6-17-3, o', Kingston. Donor E. Beaupre. 
Hastings county 
26-11-1-1, June 12, 1890, Coe Hill. Purchased. 
Huron county 
31-10-31-1, o, about 1860, Goderich township. Donor Paul Hahn. 
Kent county? 
28-3-21-1, o, St. Clair Flats. Donor Paul Hahn. 
Manitoulin Island 
33-12-12-1, early 1890’s. Donor Paul Hahn. 
Middlesex county 
32-4-19-30, o, 1873, Strathburn. Donor Paul Hahn. 
32-4-19-31, o’, 1873, Strathburn. Donor Paul Hahn. 
34-4-13-3, about 1880, Hyde Park. Donor Paul Hahn. 
Northumberland county 
33-8-31-24, o&, about 1863, Grafton. Donor Paul Hahn. 
33-8-31-25, about 1863, Grafton. . Donor Paul Hahn. 
33-8-31-26, 2, about 1863, Grafton. Donor Paul Hahn. 
33-8-31-27, o', about 1863, Grafton. Donor Paul Hahn. 
Ontario county 
31-1-28-1, o, Pickering. Donor Paul Hahn. 
31-1-28-2, 9, Pickering. Donor Paul Hahn. 
34-7-22-1, &, Pickering. Donors Geo. J. and Chas. Fothergill. 
34-7-22-2, o, about 1870, Port Perry. Donor Port Perry Library 
34-7-22-3, &, about 1870, Port Perry. Donor Port Perry Library 
Oxford county 
34-5-17-1, 2, about 1863, Embro. Donor Paul Hahn. 


Perth county | 
30-10-17-1, 2, 1869, Lot 31, Con. 8, Elma township. Donor 
Paul. Hahn. 
Peterborough county 
30-6-20-3, April, 1891, Peterborough. From Ontario Provincial 
30-11-23-1, o, about 1876, Lakefield. Donor Paul Hahn. 
Prince Edward county 
32-8-29-1, o, early ’70’s, Huycks Point, Hillier township. Pur- 
Simcoe county 
34-8-8-1, about 1870. Donor: Paul Hahn. 
35-4-2-2, Imm. Barrie. Donor H. Percy Bingham. 
35-4-2-3, Imm. Barrie. Donor H. Percy Bingham. 
Wentworth county 
30-3-14-1, 9, 1890, Aldershot. Donor Paul Hahn. 
York county 
t8-12-10-25, o"», Toronto*Island. » Donor W: H. Merritt. 
19-2-7-1, o’, Yonge and Carlton Streets, Toronto. Donor Paul 
27-10-1-1, co’, 1865, Yonge and Carlton Streets, Toronto. Donor 
Paul Hahn. 
30-1-16-1, 1871, Mimico. Donor Paul Hahn. 
30-10-2-1, o’, mid-September, 1879, northeast Toronto. Donor 
Paul Hahn. 
al-12-30-1.c', West: Loronto..., Donor: Mrs.H. A..W_sMackad: 
33-12-29-1, about 1876, Jameson Avenue, Toronto. Donor Mrs. 
2H. Gooch. 
34-3-23-1, o', 1871, Tannery Hollow, Toronto. Donor Paul Hahn. 
34-3-23-2, 9, 1871, Tannery Hollow, Toronto. Donor Paul Hahn. 
34-4-19-1, autumn about 1874, Don Valley, Toronto. Donor 
Paul Hahn. 
34-6-7-1, o, April about 1880, Bathurst and Ulster Streets, Toronto. 
Donor Paul Pahn. 
Specimens with no data 
70-1-1-84, 9. Old Collection. 
11-4-3-63, @. Donor Rev. John Doel. 
14-6-12-3, &@. Donated by Knox College. 
18-8-12-1,"°o. Donor Paul Hahn. 
20-11-16-1, &. Purchased. 
20-11-16-2, 9. Purchased. 
21-2-15-1, o. Donor Paul Hahn. 
21-12-6-1, o&'. Donor Dr. C. T. Currelly. 


21-12-12-1, o&. Purchased. 

24-11-4-2. Donor Paul Hahn. 

26-11-1-2, o&'. Purchased. 

26-11-2-1, o&. Donor Paul Hahn. 

27-10-21-1, o&. Donor Paul Hahn. 

29-4-19-3, o. By exchange. 

30-10-25-1, o&. Donor Paul Hahn. 

31-4-22-15, o&. Donor Mrs. J. F. W. Ross. 

31-4-22-16, Yg. Donor Mrs. J. F. W. Ross. 

32-6-1-1, &@. Donor Cecil R. Allison. 

33-6-20-2, o&. From Ontario Provincial Museum. 

30-6-20-42, o. From Ontario Provincial Museum. 

30-6-20-44, o'. From Ontario Provincial Museum. 

33-9-1-230, o'. Purchased. 

34-4-28-1. Donor Paul Hahn, 

35-2-5-1, &. Donor Miss Wheatley, Yorkshire, England. 

35-5-30-2. Donor C. G. Brennand. 

35-4-26-1. Donor Wm. Petrie. 

35-4-16-1. Donor Paul Hahn. 

United States 

34-1-5-1, o’, about 1878, Flint, Michigan. Donor Paul Hahn. 

34-1-5-2, 9, about 1878, Flint, Michigan. Donor Paul Hahn. 

34-5-8-21, o’, May 18, 1888, Oak Forest, Indiana. Donor W. A. 

34-5-8-22, 9, May 13, 1888, Oak Forest, Indiana. Donor W. A. 

Specimens in the McIlwratth Collection, Hamilion, Ontario 
oc and @ shot about the year 1863 at Hamilton by T. MclIlwraith. 

Specimens in Collection of W. E. Saunders, London, Ontario 

110, o&, August, 1882, Point Pelee, Ontario. 

449-24-9-85, juvenile male and 

450-24-9-85, 2, both shot September 24, 1885, four miles east of 
Dorchester (14 miles east of London). Recorded Ottawa 
Naturalist, May, 1902, p. 438 (22c). 

4447 (o'?), about 1860, by Mr. Haskett, probably on what is now 
the Fair grounds in the city of London. 

Mounted Specimens in National Museum, Ottawa 
4403, &, near Toronto. 
286, co’, probably Toronto or London. Holman Collection. 
6461, no data. 




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Extract from the diary (written between 1816 and 1841, but unpublished) of 
Charles Fothergill, M.P. first post-master of Port Hope, Ontario 

“The migrations of pigeons into Canada from the south are eccentric, and uncertain 
as to numbers and seasons though no year is without its myriads. It is, however, 
seldom seen in the depths of Winter, though such instances have occurred, and they 
have been known to fly, as it is called, that is to move from one distant place to another 
every month in the year, as was the case during the Winter of 1826-27, as well as in 
the Spring and Fall. Their numbers are generally so great as to exceed all that could 
be conceived by Europeans. 

“It is believed, and upon good grounds, that the bird breeds every month in the 
year save one—that in which it travels. In Canada they usually breed by single pairs 
scattered up and down in the forests, after the manner of the ring-dovein England; and 
I was often at a loss to account for the singularity, that in the western parts of the 
United States particularly, they breed together in immense associations, covering at 
times more than ten miles square, every tree in that space being covered with nests; 
whilst in Canada such coteries are so rare, that until the Summer of 1827, or rather the 
Spring of that year, for they were mostly gone or removed by the first of June, I never 
knew of such an assemblage. However, in 1827, on the shores of Lake Ontario about 
ten miles west of Port Hope, there was such an assemblage of nests as covered a space 
of more than five miles square, and the multitudes that were killed filled many wagons. 
I have not heard by enquiry amongst the oldest inhabitants of more than two or three 
instances of a similar kind in any part of Upper Canada, although millions are annually 
produced in their usual detached manner, by single couples nidificating alone in soli- 
tary places. This peculiarity, as well as the flying in Winter, I have little doubt has 
been occasioned by the abundance of beech-nuts which has been extraordinary this 
year (1827)—as these nuts constitute their favorite food and this fruit wholly fails 
to the southward. The flight of this species is greatly regulated by the quantity or 
scarcity of this kind of food. 

‘The flavor of the flesh of the wild birds, and especially of the young ones, greatly 
exceeds that of the tame pigeon, and their numbers proved a valuable acquisition to 
the first settlers as an article of food. Such numbers were formerly brought to the 
market of Quebec by the country people, that it was found necessary to make a police 
law preventing the vendors from leaving those they could not dispose of to rot and 
putrify—and the price is frequently not more than three pence a dozen. They are 
commonly taken in nets, which is the easiest and least expensive mode, though vast 
numbers are shot. If on the alert during the morning and evening flights, any ordinary 
sportsman may load himself in a very short time, less than an hour, without moving 
-from the same spot. 

“It is observable that the various flocks on the wing uniformly pursue the same 
general course, or fly to the same point of the compass. As to computing the numbers 
that migrate into Canada from the United States in the course of twenty-four hours, 
some conception may be formed from the single fact that I have known 1,500,000 to 
pass over one small field in a single day. When it is considered that similar streams 
of birds are pouring in from the south every hundred yards or less, along a frontier of 
nearly eighteen hundred miles in extent, every Spring, and still greater numbers re- 
turning in the Fall, there is nothing in nature to compare with these prolific myriads, 
except it be the ocean of herrings which annually move from the great depths around 
the Northern pole to the Southward. 


“The female pigeon of the wild variety differs from the male in being a trifle less, 
generally half an inch, shorter—and is more plainly attired having none of the fine 
rufous, or ferrugineous on the breast. The chin and throat of the female is of a dirty 
white; the forepart of the neck and breast a dark drab color. A little burnishing of 
green and gold distinguish the sides of the neck, but by no means in so brilliant a man- 
ner asin the male. The sides in both male and female are bright dove color, and the 
under tail coverts white.”’ 

Extracts from Diary of William Pope (149) 

William Pope was born in Maidstone, Kent, England, in 1811, and sailed for 
America in March of 1834. He lived in various parts of western Ontario, finally 
settling at Port Ryerse, where he lived for the last forty years of his life. He was an 
artist of some ability and during these years in Ontario painted many birds. The 
frontispiece of this book is a good example of his work. 

The following extracts are taken from a typewritten copy of his diary, this copy 
being in the Toronto Reference Library: 

1835 September 11. Near St. Thomas. ‘The pigeons are very scarce here this Season. 
—I have not seen more than a dozen small Flocks since the Spring when they even were 
totally plentiful [sic]. The great failure of Food in the Forests this year, particularly 
Beech-nuts and Acorns, has caused the Pigeons to forsake this part of the Country 
for some more favoured spot where the late Spring Frosts, here so severe, did very 
little or no damage. Most probably these Birds have all migrated to the South. 

“In June and July I found these birds dispersed about in twos and threes, some- 
times singly and in small parties of five or six to-gether,—I commonly met with them 
at this time along the banks of the small ‘Creeks’ in the woods, especially during the 
midday’s heat, and about the small swamps and the low flat lands where the Hickory, 
Basswood and Black Ash are the principal Trees. They were generally on the ground 
seeking a particular kind of plant that chiefly flourishes in these parts of the Forest 
and the white crisp roots of which afford them a great part of their substance at this 
time of the year. On approaching nigh to the Pigeons they merrily flew to some of 
the nearest branches,—the shooter having nothing to do but to walk up within shooting 
distance and take them off their perch as easily as he pleases, the pigeons having but 
little fear of the Shooter or his weapon—Poor Sport this for an Englishman, though 
these birds must be shot at sitting when in the Woods, as from the inconceivable 
rapidity with which they wing their flight in passing through the Forest like a sudden 
gleam of Sunshine, there is but little chance of killing them when in the act of flying. 
At this time of the year and throughout the Fall while they stay in the country they 
frequent the wheat Stubbles and fields of Buckwheat of which they are particularly 
fond. -—They now congregate into immense flocks and I am told that it is no un- 
common thing to kill thirty or forty birds at a single discharge from an ordinary fowling 
piece. —Most of the inhabitants that have guns in his possession now, as well as at 
other periods when the pigeons make their appearance, turn out and slaughter vast 
numbers. Pigeons being now the order of the Day from one end of the country 
to the other,—almost every Family treating themselves with a mess of them. It is 
astonishing what prodigious quantities are killed and yet to all appearances their num- 
bers are not lessened even in the slightest degree. I am told by credible persons that 
they do not observe any decrease in the vast flocks of these birds but that they appear 
still as large and as numerous as they did 20 or 30 years back. -—They are extremely 
uncertain in making their periodical visits, depending altogether upon the abundance 
or scarcity of Food in the Woods. —If it happens to be a plentiful year plenty of 


Acorns and Beech-nuts, it is next to certain that Pigeons will appear in great plenty 
likewise,—but on the contrary—should it unfortunately prove an unfruitful season 
that year, you may reckon upon having no Pigeons or at best very few as it turned 
out this year,—the Pigeons regulating their movements altogether upon the article 
of Food. It necessarily follows that from the habit these birds have of assembling 
together in immense flocks requiring a great supply of food and a large extent of feeding 
ground they cannot remain in any tract of country when that necessary article is not 
in abundance. -—This may be the case for two or three years,—no Nuts or Mast,—no 
Pigeons—then again come a fruitful Season and once more come the Pigeons. —Con- 
quently one year there may be a great plenty of them and for one, two or more years 
there will be very few or none at all being altogether dependent upon the times and 
Seasons. —In some parts of Canada and the States as well the people make use of 
Clap Nets in capturing these birds. -—-The Nets are 50 or 60 yards in length being 
made to fall by the fowler pulling a string. Some live birds or dead skins stuffed 
and set up so to appear alive and put under the nets together with some Corn, wheat 
or grain of some sort, for the purpose of decoying the wild Birds down, then flying over, 
spy out the decoy birds, take a flight or two round and settle down crowding together 
under the net and now the fowler pulling the fatal string encloses the poor birds in 
great numbers. -—The feathers of the breast are very good for stuffing Beds and the 
breasts after being cut out are sometimes salted down for future provision. -—The 
people living on the Lake Shores are sometimes able to take these birds by merely stand- 
ing on the steep banks and knocking them down as they pass by. —The birds being 
much exhausted by their long flight over the Lakes, especially in the Spring one half 
of the flocks at that season consisting of the newly raised young which are not then 
capable of sustaining such great exertion without suffering much distress and fatigue. 
—They, therefore, fly very low at first gaining land sufficiently so as to be within reach 
of a moderate pole, —and are even sometimes so utterly worn out on their arrival as to 
suffer themselves to be knocked off the tree upon which they have settled to rest them- 
selves. -—They are middling good eating when young, but when old are hard and 
dry and the worst bird in that respect that I have met in Canada. —They are almost 
one half the size of the English Wood Pigeon and differ considerably in plumages. 
—AlImost incredible stories are related about these birds in regard to their extraordinary 
numbers. The great size of their breeding and roosting places about which such 
wonders are related by ‘‘Travellers and Naturalists’’ as almost to exceed belief,—for 
the Natural History of this remarkable Bird I shall refer to that distinguished student 
of Nature, the indefatigable Wilson,..... ” [Quotes Wilson at length]. 

The next extract is from the second part of the Diary, written probably in 1835 
or 1836. 

October 2. ‘This day I shot 7 Pigeons; there were 8 of them in the flock; they were 
feeding on a piece of young wheat and they were the last I saw this season. [These 
remarks are evidently an elaboration of a brief note occurring some pages previously.] 
—On inquiring of one old settler in this part of the country and a man of credit of 
what extent the largest flock of these birds he had ever seen consisted, he told me that 
once he observed them passing over in close array as far as the view extended on either 
side and the time they continued flying was about half an hour. -—TI also heard another 
person relate that he had seen a flock of Pigeons about a mile in width continue flying 
for 3 hours. -—These must have been ‘considerable flocks,’ but are nothing compared 
to some tales related of the prodigious multitudes of these birds. —-There must be 
amazing numbers of these birds as sometimes for the space of a week or fortnight flocks 


of pigeons from twenty to one or two hundred in a flock will keep passing over a certain 
district all in the same direction, and one flock appearing as soon as the previous one 
is lost sight of following each other in quick succession. —At such times a shooter has 
nothing to do but to place himself in a favourable situation and he may continue firing 
at each succeeding flock all the livelong day till at last he grows weary with the work 
of destruction.” 

April 15. ‘... Last evening I killed a wild pigeon—being my first this season—they 
are very scarce yet. I have only seen two small flocks.” 

May 15. ‘‘...Saw several flocks of Pigeons passing towards the East—none of 
them came near me.”’ 

May 23. ‘“‘—have seen several flocks of Pigeons during the last 3 or 4 days.” 

May 25. ‘‘... killed 10 couple of Pigeons being the most I have yet bagged in one 

day—three times I killed 2 at one shot—and all sitting except 1, this flock was in the 
vicinity of a newly sown piece of pease. There were 200 more or less in it, but they 
were very shy—especially in the afternoon 2 of those I killed were young birds. —Saw 
several small flocks pass over during the course of the day. Had some dinner at a log- 
house belonging to the farm on which I was shooting. It was most confoundedly hot 
about 10 o’clock. I nearly fainted once—there was no water nigh and the weight of a 
dozen pigeons in my game bag made my skin ‘pretty considerably’ moist. I ‘cal- 
culated’ tough work fagging under a burning sun with the glass up to 100 and the 
cursed mosquitoes buzzing in the neighbourhood of your ears.”’ 

June 1. ‘‘Bagged 12 couple of pigeons and 13 brace of partridge—had some capital 
sport on this day—the best time for shooting Pigeons is very early in the morning and 
between the hours of 3 and 5 in the afternoon when they come to the Pea Fields, etc., 
for food—soon after 5 they go away toroost. In the heat of the day they keep pretty 
much in the ‘Bush’ sitting about on the trees and frequenting the creeks and swales 
for water. In low swampy places they find a kind of root which serves them for food 
ait is of a whitish colour and is hot and has much the same flavour as horse radish. 

June 2. ‘‘Shot 83 of pigeons and anoldshe raccoon. I lost 3 or 4 birds that I wounded 
owing to the left hand barrel of my gun getting around at the muzzle which when the 
gun is cleaned turns the charge. The first pigeon I killed on this day lodged in a beech 
tree. I climbed up about 30 feet and got within 6 feet of it and there I stuck. I clung 
for about half a minute like a wounded squirrel, but finding I could not manage the 
rest of the distance, I slid down again —I then fired at the bird again and knocked 
feats 3. 

Sketches of Upper Canada. W. B. Wells. 1837 (186) 

‘“‘A stranger will be astonished to witness the clouds of wild pigeons which wave 
through the whole province at different seasons of the year. The account given by 
Mr. Cooper in the ‘Pioneers’ of their being slaughtered with a culverin is no fiction. 
Myriads are brought down with every kind of missile, from the single bullet to the 
brick-bat. They journey to the north in summer where they have ‘rookeries’(?) miles 
in extent. The clangour there heard equals the din of the loudest tempest, or the 
sweeping wings of Milton’s infernal troop of demons. In fact, if put on short allowance, 
an army might here take up its summer quarters, and live on pigeon pies very cheaply— 
a hint, deserving the notice of Mr. Spring Rice, when planning a reduction in the army 
estimates. On returning in autumn they visit your wheat and pea fields, and coo and 
strut about your premises quite at home.” 


Reminiscences of a Canadian Pioneer for the last Fifty Years. 
Samuel Thompson, 1884 (173) 

‘‘A few miles distant was a pigeon roost. In spring, the birds would come flying 
round the east shore of Lake Huron, skirting the Georgian bay, in such vast clouds as 
to darken the sun; and so swiftly that swan-shot failed to bring them down unless 
striking them in the rear; and, even then, we rarely got them, as the velocity of their 
flight impelled them far into the thicket before falling. These beautiful creatures 
attacked our crops with serious results, and devoured all our young peas. I have 
known twenty-five pigeons killed at a single shot; and have myself got a dozen by 
firing at random into a maple tree on which they had alighted, but where not one had 
been visible. 

“The pigeon roost itself was a marvel. Men, women and children went by the 
hundred, some with guns, but the majority with baskets, to pick up the countless birds 
that had been disabled by the fall of great branches of trees broken off by the weight 
of their roosting comrades overhead. The women skinned the birds, cut off their 
plump breasts, throwing the remainder away, and packed them in barrels with salt, 
for keeping.’’ [This occurred in the township of Sunnidale, Simcoe county.]| 

A Reminiscence of the Last Great Flight of the Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migra- 
torius) 1n Canada. By Percy R. Lowe, from information derived from 
Dr. A. B. Welford of Woodstock, Ontario, Canada. (115) 

‘“‘On one of the hot days of last July there walked into the Bird-room of the British 
Museum a gentleman from Woodstock, Ontario, in Canada. This was Doctor A. B. 
Welford, who had not been to England for forty years, and in his hand he bore a fine 
skin of a Passenger Pigeon which he wished to present to the Museum. Almost at the 
last moment of leaving his home for England, he had packed it in one of his trunks— 
a happy thought—for although it had been well preserved in his house as a precious 
relic of one of the most remarkable phenomena in the history of birds and was in fact 
in a very excellent state of preservation, such relics are perhaps safer in an institution 
like the British Museum. Gratefully as we accepted Dr. Welford’s gift, we were still 
more grateful for the very interesting account which the donor gave us of his own 
personal experience of the last great flight of the Passenger Pigeon. It must be getting 
a rare event, nowadays, to listen to the story of a man who had actually witnessed one 
of the last devastating flights of this remarkable bird, and as we listened, wholly ab- 
sorbed, I came to t he conclusion that such a story was too good to be lost in the hazy 
limbo of mere hearsay recollection. I therefore asked Dr. Welford if he would kindly 
jot down for publication a few notes as to the main facts and incidents of his experience, 

and here they are, woven into what I think is a story which may well interest the readers 
of ‘The Ibis’.” 

‘‘The Passenger Pigeon which I have presented to the British Museum of Natural 
History was shot by me in the spring flight (April) of 1870 (about), near Woodstock, 
in Ontario. I am not absolutely clear as to the year or month, but I feel fairly sure it 
was April. I remember too, that it was a Monday, for there had been a large flight on 
the preceding day, and I can well recollect regretting that it was a Sunday, as we had 
up till then never seen such an unusual flight; although, as it turned out, this was only 
the advance guard. 

‘‘For many years previously there had of course taken place the usual spring flights 
from the south, but no one in those days remembered ever having seen anything com- 


parable to the prodigious flight which occurred in the spring of 1869 or 1870. In pre- 
vious years, if we had a bag of eight or ten a day it was considered good shooting, 
unless indeed one had had the fortune to be quietly lying in wait in the wood when a 
large flock alighted in one’s immediate neighbourhood. On such a lucky occasion the 
flock would always first alight in the trees, and the birds would commence their sweet 
plaintive calls, which were very similar to those of the domestic pigeon, but with a very 
much prettier trill and accentuation, and a curious ventriloquial effect. After calling 
in this way for some time, a few birds, emboldened by the apparent peace and safety, 
would fly down to the ground, quickly followed by more and more, until hundreds of 
the entire flock would soon be searching for the beech-nuts on or under the fallen leaves. 
It was, as I have said, on these fortunate occasions that one might get fifteen to twenty- 
five birds with a double shot just as they rose en masse from the ground, but asa rule I 
was quite content with ten birds in a day’s shooting and sometimes got none. More- 
over, in the years previous to the big flight, the pigeons used to be very shy and 
dificult to approach, for usually the trees and undergrowth hai not begun to put forth 
their leaves, and the birds, like wild geese, seemed to have a habit of putting out 
sentinels, so that when these flew away the entire flock would be off. 

“On the particular Monday of which I write the birds came over in incredible 
numbers, some idea of which may be gained by what happened to me personally. 

‘“‘T was up that morning very early, and so were the birds. I had taken up a posi- 
tion on the top of some rising ground, behind a rail or small fence which ran along the 
the edge of a wood in which were growing some beech trees which supplied the favourite 
food of the pigeons. The beech-nuts had been lying covered with snow all through the 
winter, but were now exposed. Between the spot where I stood and another large 
wood was a small open clearing or meadow. By this time the air was black with flock 
upon flock of pigeons all going eastward. Some were flying high, but others just 
cleared the wood in front of me, and then swooping down to the meadow, flew very close 
to the ground, so close indeed that it was necessary for them to rise before clearing the 
low fence in front of me. This was my opportunity; and as they cleared the fence, so 
I fired into wave upon wave. 

‘*They came on in such numbers that thousands would pass between the discharge 
of my double-barrelled gun and its reloading—a longer process then, in the days of 
muzzle-loaders, than now. At about 10 a.m., not being in the least prepared for such 
phenomenal slaughter, I ran out of powder and shot, having then 400 birds to my credit, 
during the shooting of which it was not unusual to get from fifteen to twenty-five with 
a ‘right and left’. Being now unable to do any more shooting until I had secured more 
ammunition I hurried home, a distance of one and a half miles, got a horse and light 
waggon, returned to the scene of my battue with some grain-bags holding one and a 
half bushels of ordinary grain, filled them with the pigeons and made tracks for my 
home again. All the time I was filling the sacks the birds were still streaming low over 
the fence, so that before leaving I hid myself behind it, and taking a long slender cedar 
rail, knocked down many more as they came over. 

‘This, however, to my then youthful notions, did not appeal so much as shooting, 
so that, after dropping my birds at home, I drove into town (Woodstock, Ontario) for 
more powder and shot and caps, a distance of three and a half miles. During the 
entire drive there and back, flocks of millions of pigeons were filling the air and shadowing 
the sun like clouds. The roar of their wings resembled low rumbling thunder, and the 
shooting from scores of guns could be heard for miles, resounding from wood to wood 
like a small mimic battle. 

‘This great flight continued from before daylight to dusk and lasted for some days, 
gradually lessening until the flight was over. 


‘Each succeeding year for several years ordinary flights continued, but in greatly 
reduced numbers, until they ceased altogether.”’ 

“Such in substance and fact is Dr. Welford’s written statement, and his account 
of this wonderful flight corresponds in every essential particular with the story which 
he told on the spur of the moment to Mr. Kinnear and myself. What, we may well 
ask, is the explanation of this swift and tumultuous passing of the Passenger Pigeon, 
of this final orgy or riot of reproductive energy? 

‘‘We may think of something akin to an abnormal stimulation or feverish exhaus- 
tion of the germ plasm, but how that over-stimulation arose, if it ever existed, it would 
be difficult to say. There seems, for instance, no evidence to suggest that it was due 
to an abnormal supply of food and if it had been it would have affected other species of 
the family. We may fancifully compare it to the last flaring up of the dying spark of 
life in a race which was already doomed and approaching its end, or to a final and 
resplendent finale to an original creative impulse with which the species was launched 
from the ‘family tree’ to run its inevitable course upon the face of the earth. We may 
think of it as a race whose germ-potency had, so to speak, ‘outrun the constable’, like 
so many other races we have knowledge of in past geological ages; but instead of 
running to fantastic sizes, as in the case of so many of the reptiles whose doom was 
sealed, it rioted in a spendthrift revelry of numbers, which led to exhaustion and ex- 
tinction. We may, if it so pleases us, surmise that its vital mechanism had, for some 
cause or other simply burnt itself out, or that there was some sudden alteration in the 
sex-ratio; but whatever we choose to think, there are I believe two causes at least for 
which there would appear to be a very justifiable doubt as to their being the actual 
determining factors leading to the total and final disappearance of the Passenger Pigeon 
from this planet. One of them is a microbic infection, the other the machinations of 
man, wholesale as the latter were. If it had been the first, there would have been 
abundant and patent evidence available, and as to the second, the probabilities seem 
all against such an idea; for if the Passenger Pigeon had not, for some reason which 
we cannot yet fathom, been doomed to disappear utterly and finally, we should surely 
have witnessed small scattered populations still holding out in such places where chance 
and protection afforded them the opportunity. 

‘‘Doubtless there will be not a few who will dissent. It will be pointed out that 
the Passenger Pigeon was a food-migrant, that did not continue in one place, thereby 
militating against its preservation in specially protected areas. But its migrations were 
the result of its immense hordes and consequent scarcity of food in any one locality, 
and we can scarcely believe that a small colony amply provided with a sufficiency of 
beech-nuts, acorns and other provender would have left their breeding grounds for the 
mere lust of wandering. Other objections, too, may be advanced, such as the facilities, 
especially in former times in the States, for indiscriminate shooting, just when the fate 
of the species was apparently trembling in the balance. Yet in spite of all such objec- 
tions, in spite of the untold slaughter of thousands upon thousands by every means, 
legal and illegal, I still imagine we have not yet fathomed the secret of this pigeon’s 
complete extermination.”’ 

The Passenger Pigeon. C. A. Fleming (66) 

‘“‘Let us go back into the Sixties to a farm in the Township of Derby, Grey County, 
and allow the mind to go back over some of the incidents of boyhood days. It is early 
spring, the middle of April or later, when the passenger pigeon or wild pigeon as they 


were more commonly called, would begin to come in flocks. It is evening, getting on 
to about an hour or so before sunset, and the great flocks of blue-gray birds would 
appear. Perhaps you had been ploughing and they would make a circle or two and 
light on the freshly ploughed field and look for food. Other flocks would fly overhead 
or off to one side going right on north. Others would light on the zig-zag rail fences. 
Sometimes great flocks would come and if they passed west of you they would hide the 
sun from view for a minute or more. The flocks often flew quite low so that we boys 
would strike them with sticks and bring home a few. A year or so older and we knew 
how to sharpen our knives and use them. We would select some nice straight cedar 
split into pieces about an inch square and say eighteen inches long. <A nail would be 
driven into one end, of each piece, all the heads ground off and brought to a sharp point 
on the grindstone. Then arrows would be shaped out of these pieces of cedar, perhaps 
twenty-five or thirty to be ready for business when the pigeons came. A piece of 
straight-grained rock elm would be found about four feet long and split and shaped up 
to make the splendid bows with which to shoot our arrows. 

“Selecting a suitable spot where the flocks often passed we would shoot the arrows 
into the flocks. If the sharp pointed arrow hit a bird, it was ‘our meat’. The arrow 
would stick and bring it down—that is when we managed to make a strike—of course 
there were so many air holes through the flocks, that if one out of a dozen arrows brought 
a bird it was considered extra good luck. 

‘‘Though they were called wild pigeons, they were not difficult to approach. When 
flying in flocks of hundreds or thousands you would think sometimes they were coming 
straight at you, when all at once when within thirty or forty feet distant, they would 
make a quick turn to the right or left or upward, a swift and most graceful turn, and 
away in another direction. It would almost seem sometimes as if they just tried to 
see how near they could come and get away successfully. The flocks often seemed to 
flv hither and thither over the forests for the very joy of flight. When they flew to the 
east of you in the evening, so that the sun shone on them, there was a perfect riot of 
color as they passed. The male birds being much finer looking and more showy than 
the female, the sheen of their plumage in the evening sun was such that no words could 
be found to describe nor a painter to paint it. The flash of brilliant color and the won- 
derful whirr of their wings in flight as they passed within a few yards can never be 

“I see another side of the picture. The farmer had started in the morning to sow 
a ten acre field of wheat by hand broadcast. “The teams were finishing ploughing on 
the other side of the field and were only hitched to the harrows about three o’clock in 
the afternoon, consequently the seed on only about six acres was covered. The evening 
flight of the birds was on strong and so numerous were the flocks that not a grain of 
seed on the four acres was left. It had to be sowed over again the next day. The only 
compensation was a fine pigeon pie the next day for dinner—the result of a few charges 
of number four shot from the old muzzle loading gun, but that did not save the seed 

‘Arriving at the age of ten years the old single barrel shot gun was available after 
careful instruction as to how to load it, fire it and care for it and a few lessons as to how, 
where and when to shoot. It was no use to fire at a flock when coming towards you. 
The shot would glance off those thickly feathered, highly polished breasts, and you 
would scarcely ever see one fall—but just turn around and get them when they were 
going away from you and you would get your birds from one to half a dozen at a shot. 

‘‘Another way was to get them after they lit on the top rail of a zig-zag fence. A 
neighbour bought a new gun. A very nice patent breech gun with a highly polished 
walnut stock, the finest in the settlement. He would be out early in the morning to 


get a shot at the pigeons that would light on the rail fences, but he never could get 
more than one bird at a shot. Before this he would often be given three or four by 
some of us boys when we had taken from six to a dozen at a shot from the top of the 
fence before he got his new shooting iron. 

“One fine morning he seemed anxious to trade his new one for my old weather- 
worn plug breech gun that cost $3.50 when new. I knew my father would not allow 
any trade of that kind, so I picked up his gun, loaded it from his powder and shot flasks 
and waited my chance. Presently a flock lit on the fence within easy range. I moved 
away a little to get my position, and fired and handed him his gun and eleven birds. 
He had been getting in a line with the rail on which they perched and of course only 
got the end bird, but taking them on the angle it was easy enough to strip off the whole 
line. It was not difficult to get all the birds needed for household use during the spring 
months before they started nesting and raising their young. No person needed to be 
without fowl when they wished them. ‘There was a parody on an old hymn that was 
often repeated as the opening of the pigeon season began: 

When I can sight my shotgun clear, 
To pigeons in the sky, 

I'll bid farewell to salted pork, 
And feed on pigeon pie. 

“At this time there was very little clearing done north of the gravel road that runs 
east and west between Owen Sound and Southampton. It was almost solid bush 
from this road to Tobermory, the north point of the Bruce peninsula. There were of 
course small clearings here and there. This almost unbroken forest furnished excellent 
nesting facilities for millions upon millions of passenger pigeons that no man could 
number. Soon after their arrival in the spring they made preparation for housekeeping 
in this forest every spring. They built their nests in the tree tops. It was not unusual 
to see as many as a dozen nests in a single tree, and there never seemed to be any family 
quarrels among them. In the evening they gathered in quite large flocks and flew long 
distances away from the rookery in search of food. There were also early morning flights 
to the settled country to the south. Of course, half of them had to stay home to carry 
on the hatching of the young and caring for them. It is supposed that those that went 
on the evening trip would remain home and attend to the household duties while their 
mates were on the morning flight in search of food. In the rookery there was no fuss 
or flying away when a bunch of hunters would invade their territory; they seemed to 
feel safe and secure from harm in their seclusion. 

‘There was no such thing as shooting into flocks and bringing down quite a number 
of birds at a time. It was just one bird at a time, all single shots, but you could shoot 
them just as rapidly as you could load your gun. Men would come from town with 
grain sacks and fill them, one bird at a time, until the supply of ammunition ran out. 
These sacks could be taken home and distribution made to neighbours, and I have 
heard it frequently stated that any surplus over was fed to pigs. I donot know of them 
being sold or marketed. 

“Such wanton slaughter, especially during nesting season, was a disgrace, but there 
were so many of them that no one seemed to take a thought for the young families 
being left without parental care. 

‘While the great bulk of the pigeons nested in the recognized rookery, quite a few 
nested in the woods belonging to the farmer settlers all over the country, so that anyone 
could go out with his gun and bring in a few in an hour or two. 



‘“‘As clearing, timbering and lumbering made inroads on the forest the rookery was 
pushed farther north each year. Soon after confederation year, 1867, there began to 
be fewer flocks and fewer birds in the flocks. As time went on the numbers grew less 
each succeeding year. The woods no longer resounded with the well-known cry as in 
former years. By the year 1875 there were only a few. The last one I ever saw, I 
shot in a large beech tree in the township of Sullivan near Dornoch about the beginning 
of September, 1878. 

“When the wheat was ripe in early August and cut and stooked, it was quite 
interesting to see a flock of a few thousand pigeons circle around over the field and 
alight on the stooks of wheat. They would entirely cover the grain heads where they 
were exposed. The farmer was usually alive to the trouble and frequently his gun 
took a toll of the invaders. The grain at that time was put together twelve sheaves 
toa stook. Ten were set up on their butt ends in the stubble in a double row, and two 
were spread over them, but towards the middle for a double purpose (1) to shed the 
rain if wet weather came and (2) to cover the heads of ten sheaves and only leave two 
exposed to the pigeons when they came. 

“If a person who has seen the great flocks of passenger pigeons were to give the 
actual facts of what they have seen, the average person of the twentieth century would 
be likely to suggest that Annanias of New Testament time had come to life again. At 
the risk of being called by this unpopular Bible name, I will relate the following: 

‘About the middle of a fine field of about twenty acres of the best wheat land on 
the old homestead, there stood a clump of young trees standing uninjured during the 
clearing operations. ‘There were five white ash trees that were short, thick and stout 
from twenty to twenty-five feet high, and one tall slender rock elm tree, six to seven 
inches in diameter and between forty to fifty feet tall. This little grove of trees was a 
very inviting place for the pigeons to alight and make observations as to the prospect 
of some good meals in preparation for the flight in the fall. The stout ash trees stood 
the strain of the extra weight quite well. Not so withtheelm. The extra weight of a 
thousand pigeons or more bent it over towards the east. The prevailing winds in this 
section of the country being from the west, there were more and larger branches on 
the east side. The pigeons continued year after year to alight on the rock elm in great 
numbers, and by the year 1865 it was in the form of a half circle, the top resting on 
the ground a little over twenty feet away from the root. It remained permanently in 
this position until it was cut down by the writer in 1878.” 

An Account of Passenger Pigeons—By John Townson. 
Read before the Brodie Club of Toronto 

“My first close-up view of the wild pigeon occurred in 1864, when I was eight 
years of age. At that time we lived on Winchester Street, near the Necropolis, and 
my father, who was an amateur taxidermist and interested in all forms of bird life, 
made frequent trips up the Don valley. On Sunday morning, early in April, in the 
year above mentioned, I accompanied him in his usual stroll up the river. When we 
had proceeded a short distance north of the Winchester St. bridge, a flock of wild 
pigeons (probably two hundred or more) were seen flying up the valley. Opposite 
Castle Frank at the spot where the west end of the Bloor St. viaduct now is, the flock 
turned to the left and settled down among the trees. We climbed up the hillside, 
which was much more densely wooded then than it is at the present time, and as we 
neared the crest of the hill we could hear the noise of the birds fluttering about and 
calling, which, as I recollect it, was louder and more shrill than the notes of the mourning 
dove; anyway they were making considerable noise. 


‘To use a phrase which I| have often heard quoted since, ‘the woods were full of ‘em.’ 
We watched the birds for several minutes and it was an unforgettable sight; then a shot 
was fired across the ravine near the head of Parliament Street and the alarmed birds 
took flight with a deafening roar and resumed their journey northward. 

‘“‘It might be explained here that shooting on Sunday in those days was not un- 
common, especially when the pigeons were flying. Also at that time there was a large 
tract of open ground extending from St. James Cemetery over to the end of Bloor St. 
where the old blockhouse stood on the crest of the ravine where the Sherbourne St. 
bridge is now located. ‘This open stretch of ground was a favourite place for the local 
gunners to wait for the pigeons as they lowered down after passing over the city and 
for many years was known as ‘Pigeon Green’. 

“In the following year, 1865, my father received a letter from a friend of his, who 
was one of the early settlers in the district between Barrie and Orillia, that a roost of 
wild pigeons existed nine miles northeast of Barrie. Accordingly father and Dr. Riddell 
paid a visit to the locality where the pigeons were nesting. “The breeding ground chosen 
by the pigeons was a ridge covered with hardwood, mostly beech, with some maple, oak 
and birch. He stated that the birds were there literally in thousands, and he was 
inclined to be cautious when speaking about numbers. He never used the word million, 
because he contended that very few people had any conception of what the word million 
meant, consequently it can be taken as a fact that there were great numbers of birds 
there. He also said there were from four or five up to seventeen nests—the highest 
number he counted—on some of the trees. The nests were constructed on the nearly 
horizontal limbs, loosely-built affairs of broken twigs, generally containing two eggs, 
but in some cases only one. The nests were usually built about fifteen feet from the 
ground upward. 

“During April, 1866, my father visited a rookery in Huron County, near the head- 
waters of the Maitland River, which was of larger extent than the previously mentioned 
one in the vicinity of Barrie; otherwise the conditions were similar. This completes 
my personal knowledge of ‘roosts’ or ‘nestings’ in Ontario, although there may have 
been others that I did not hear of. 

‘Migratory the wild pigeons undoubtedly were, but they did not follow the regular 
air lines which other migrants as a rule do, but seemed to roam about the country in an 
erratic manner, probably seeking out favourable feeding grounds. ‘The numbers of 
the birds that visited the vicinity of Toronto in the spring varied greatly, but in 1876 
I saw a greater number of wild pigeons in one vast flock than I ever expected to see. 
One morning about the middle of April in that particular year (1876) I happened to 
be on Toronto Island near the Eastern Channel, when I noticed what I supposed to 
be an immense black cloud over the lake to the southeast moving towards Scarboro 
Heights, but as there was a moderate north wind blowing I could not figure out how 
the cloud was moving against the wind. However, I did not have long to wait, as the 
moving mass changed its course and swung to the westward, and in a few minutes the 
northern edge of the flock was directly overhead and I found myself gazing at an in- 
numerable flock of wild pigeons. The birds were flying at a height, as near as | could 
judge, of probably 500 feet, but as the visibility was good there was no doubt about 
what they were, as their long tails were clearly discernible. I took out my watch and 
that flock kept passing over my head for fourteen minutes. I think if my father had 
been there (reluctant as he was to use the word millions) he would have broken his rule 
that time. I could plainly hear the rushing sound made by the wings until the birds 
passed out of sight. 

“It was reported in one of the Detroit papers at that time that one of the largest 
nestings that had ever taken place in northern Michigan occurred in 1876. Whether 


this flock arrived there or not I do not profess to know, anyway they were headed in 
that direction. 

‘After 1876 I saw only scattered flocks in different parts of Ontario from Walpole 
Island on the St. Clair River in the west to Marmora in Hastings county in the east. 

‘‘An uncle of mine who had a farm near Cherrywood, five or six miles north of 
Pickering on the Kingston road, told me that in the old days they had considerable 
trouble keeping the pigeons out of the grain fields. He also said that buckwheat 
seemed to be their favourite food among the different varieties of grain. 

“Tn 1877 father and I were up at Coboconk on the Gull River and he shot a few 
pigeons during the month of September, which he said were young birds of that season. 
That is as far north as I ever came into actual contact with them. 

‘The Toronto Gun Club, which was incorporated in 1871, used quite a number 
of wild pigeons for their shooting matches, which were always shipped from Buffalo, 
and the last lot of wild birds that were used by the club came from that city during the 
month of June, 1880. 

“During July, 1882, I spent a few days on the Trent River near Campbellford, 
and saw a number of pigeons flying back and forth across the river, but did not succeed 
in finding any trace of them in the woods on account of the dense foliage that existed 
at that time of the year. If the birds were young ones it is probable they were raised 
in that locality. 

‘‘After the breeding season was over the birds seemed to scatter over the country 
in small flocks. I have never heard much about their southward movement in the fall, 
and it seems obvious to me that they must have migrated at night as I never saw or 
heard of them leaving for their winter haunts in the day time. 

“‘In September 1883, I was shooting woodcock in the vicinity of the Rouge River 
when I saw a pigeon flying overhead through the tree-tops, which I brought down and 
discovered that it was a female passenger pigeon in splendid condition. This specimen, 
the last I shot, was given to the late David Herring, but have no idea what ultimately 
became of it. Even at that time, nearly half a century ago, the end was apparently 
not far off. 

‘After that memorable morning in April, 1864, I was acquainted with the pigeons 
for 22 years, until July 4, 1886, when I saw the last male wild pigeon alive near Myrtle 
Station on the C.P.R. north of Whitby. When the train stopped to take water a male 
pigeon came to a small pond near the track to quench his thirst, and, after doing so, 
flew up to the fence and started to preen his feathers; then the engine started and I 
had my last look at a live wild pigeon.”’ 


Questionnaire used to collect information 



If you knew the Wild or Passenger Pigeon in the days of its abundance, please 
record as much information as possible about it AS YOU KNEW IT by answering 
the accompanying questions. Additional information not covered by answers to these 
questions is also desired, It is not necessary that you should answer all the questions; 
answer only those for which you have information FROM PERSONAL KNOW- 
LEDGE. Do not give information obtained from books, magazine or newspaper 
articles, etc., but refer to all published information you know of in your answer to 
question 37. 

If additional space is required for your answer to any questions use additional 
sheets, numbering your answers to correspond to the question numbers. 

We owe it to future generations to leave them as full an account as we can of the 
Wild or Passenger Pigeon in Ontario. Accounts have been published of the pigeons 
as they occurred in parts of the United States, but it is earnestly desired that all the 
knowledge that still exists of this bird in Ontario should be preserved. If you did 
not know the pigeon, will you not help by referring us to persons who may be able to 
help us from personal knowledge. 

Additional copies of the questionnaire may be had by applying to the Museum. 

Name and address of person answering these questions. 


1. Give location of breeding colonies or pigeon roosts which were personally known 
to you. 

2. How large were the colonies? 

3. Have you any information as to how far north the wild pigeons were found in 


4. Did the pigeons nest in the same nesting sites year after year? 

5. Did they use these sites as roosting places after the nesting season was over prior to 
migration or did small flocks wander from place to place before migration was 

6. Have you any knowledge as to the number of eggs usually found in a nest? 

7. How close together were the nests built? 

8. How far from the ground were the nests built? 

9. In what kind of trees were the nests built? 














. In what sort of positions in the tree were the nests placed? 
. Of what material were the nests built? 

. Were the nests lined? If so, by what material? 

. How long did it take for the eggs to hatch? 

. How long after hatching before the young left the nest? 

. How many broods did a pair of pigeons raise in a season? (This may be suggested 

by the seasons at which eggs were observed in the nest.) 


What did the pigeons eat in the spring? 
In summer? 
In autumn? 
Do you know what the young were fed? 

Were the pigeons destructive to crops? If so, to what crops and at what 
seasons of the year? 


About what date in the spring did the pigeons arrive at points known to you? (If 
definite dates cannot be given, indicate time by reference to some seasonal hap- 
pening, such as leafing of certain trees or planting of some crop). 

When did they leave in the fall? 
Describe the flight of the pigeon, mentioning any peculiarity. 

Describe the arrangement of the flocks in migration. Were they uniformly dis- 
tributed or were there smaller flocks, separated from other flocks by open spaces? 
(Illustrate by diagram. ) 

To what extent did their numbers vary from year to year? 

Was the increase or decrease in their numbers regular? If so, about how often 
did large pigeon years occur? 

Were any animals noticed to be more numerous in ‘“‘pigeon years’ than when 
pigeons were scarce? 


Did they appear to have any natural enemies? 

Have you any knowledge of diseases or epidemics among them? 


28. To what extent in your locality were they killed for food, sport or other purpose? 
29. Were they killed for sale? If so, where marketed and at what price? 

30. Give some indication of the numbers so marketed. 

31. By what means were they caught or hunted? 

32. Do you know of anyone who has a pigeon net such as were used to catch wild 


33. In what ways were they prepared for the table? 
34. Was any use made of the feathers? 
35. Mention any other use that was made of the pigeons. 
36. Describe the call, song or notes of the wild pigeon. 

37. Do you know of any newspaper, magazine or other published account of the pigeon 
or of any letters, diary or other written record of them? Give reference. 

38. When was the last pigeon seen or killed in your locality? 
39. Give names of persons who have mounted specimens of the pigeon. 

40. Give names of other persons who may be able to give information on the pigeon. 


Abitibi River, pigeons nesting along 
28, 60 

Addington county. 

Albany River, occurrence of pigeons 
on, and north of, 60 

Algoma District, last pigeons, 135, 136; 
summer occurrence records, 52, 59 

Alleghany county, New York, daily 
flights, 92 

pigeons, 102 

See Lennox and 

River, occurrence ' of 

Baffin Bay, occurrence of pigeon, 24 

Bay St. Paul, northern limit of pigeons, 

Bow and Arrows, 113, 120 

Brant county, nesting, 27; migration 
flight, 65 

Brooding, alternate, 50; daily flights 
and, 92 

Broods, number of, etc., 50 

Bruce county, daily flights, 93; destruc- 
tiveness of pigeons, 105; last pigeons, 
134; migration flight, 65; nesting, 
27, 44; spring arrival, 82, 90 

Bruce Peninsula, concentration of 
nesting colonies, 44 

Buffalo, pigeons from, for trap shooting 
at Toronto, 117; pigeons shipped 
from Ontario to, 110 

Carleton county, arrival, 89, 90; last 
pigeons, 134, 135, 186; migration 
flight, 65; nesting, 28 

Chaleur, Bay of, occurrence of pigeons 
near, 16 

Chicago, sale price of pigeons at, 112 

Cincinnati, trap shooting, 114 

Clearing the land and extermination 
of pigeons, 139-141 

Cochrane District, last pigeons, 135; 
nesting, 28, 60-62; occurrence, 52; 
spring arrival, 91 

Communal spirit of passenger pigeons, 


Daily flights, 92-95 

Decrease in numbers, 130-137 

Destruction. of passenger pigeons, 
disease as an element of, 141; man’s 
destruction, 142-144; marketing and, 
109-112; methods used for catching 
pigeons, 119-129; trap shooting, 

Destructiveness of passenger pigeons, 

Detroit, pigeons shipped from Ontario 
to; 110 

Digestive powers of pigeons, 109 

Diphtheria, 141 

Disappearance of passenger pigeons, 
130; false theories of, 130; in Ontario, 

Disease as an element of destruction, 

Distribution, detailed discussion of, in 
Ontario, 59-62: in Canada, 22-25 
in North America, 8; of nesting 
pigeons, 44 

Dove. See mourning dove 

Dufferin county, daily flight, 93; fall 
migration, 91; last pigeons, 132, 134, 
135, 137; migration flight, 66; nest- 
ing, 28, 43, 47, 134; netting pigeons, 

Dundas county, migration flight, 66; 
nesting, 29; occurrence, 52 

Durham county, arrival, 90; fall 
migration, 82; last pigeons, 133; 
migration flight, 66; nesting, 29; 
netting pigeons, 127; roosts, 29, 47, 82 

Economic status, 103-112 

Eggs, number of, 49 

Elgin county, daily flight, 93; migra- 
tion flight, 66; nesting, 29, 47; 
netting pigeons, 127; size of nesting 
colony, 42, 48; specimen from, 150 

Essex county, last pigeons, 133; migra- 
tion flight, 67; nesting, 29; netting 
pigeons, 127; Pigeon Bay, 62; 
trapping pigeons, 128 


Excommunication of pigeons, 16 
Extermination, 130 -147, 168 

Feathers, use of, 108 

Feeding habits, 102 

Fifeshire, Scotland, pigeon in, 24 

Flight, 87; formation of, 84-87 

Food, 95-102; clearing the land and its 
effect on, 140; supply and its effect 
on number of broods, 50; supply in 
Northern Ontario, 61 

Forest fires in Ontario, 139 

Fort Churchill, pigeons at, 24 

Fort George, Quebec, eggs taken at, 22 

Fort Good Hope region, pigeons in, 24 

Fort Norman, pigeons at, 24 

Fort Severn, occurrence at, 24, 61 

Fort Simpson, occurrence at, 24 

Frontenac county, daily flight, 93; last 
pigeons, 132, 187; migration flight, 
67; nesting, 30; occurrence, 53; 
sale price of pigeons, 110; specimen 
from, 150 

Gaspé, Quebec, occurrence at, 22 

Georgian Bay, market hunters near, 
111; nesting near, 88; occurrence in 
region of, 53 

Glengarry county, nesting, 30; occur- 
rence, 53; snaring pigeons, 128 

Grenville county, occurrence, 53 

Grey county, 168; daily flight, 93; 
last pigeons, 132, 136; marketing 
pigeons, 111; migration flight, 67; 
nesting, 30-32, 47; netting pigeons, 
127; pigeons destructive to crops, 
105; pigeons eating mud, 101; 
trapping pigeons, 128 

Haldimand county, 19; fall migration, 
82; last pigeons, 133; migration, 67; 
nesting, 32; netting pigeons, 127 

Haliburton county, nesting, 32; occur- 
rence, 53; Pigeon Lake, 62 

Halton county, 19; last pigeons, 135; 
migration flight, 68; nesting, 32, 135; 
netting pigeons, 125, 127; occur- 
rence, 53; pigeons at salt lick, 101 

Hastings county, daily flight, 93; last 
pigeons, 132, 133, 134, 136; migra- 


tion flight, 68; nesting, 33; netting 
pigeons, 127; occurrence, 53; speci- 
men from, 150; trapping pigeons, 128 

Hatching period, 49 

Hog cholera, 141 

Hudson Bay, pigeons around, 24 

Huron county, daily flight, 94; destruc- 
tiveness of pigeons, 105; marketing 
pigeons, 111; migration flight, 69; 
nesting, 33, 44; specimen from, 150 

Huron Tract, nesting, 34, 42 

Incubation, 49 

Indiana, 140, 144; nesting, 44; roost, 47 

Indians, bow and arrows, 113; legends, 
17; names for pigeons, 62; netting 
pigeons, 119 

Instinct of passenger pigeons, 138 

Intelligence of passenger pigeons, 138 

James’ Bay, eggs taken at Fort George, 

Kenora District, nesting, 37, 59 

Kenora District, Patricia portion, occur- 
rence, 54, 60 

Kent county, fall migration, 83; migra- 
tion flight, 69; netting pigeons, 127: 
specimen from, 150, 152 

Labrador, pigeons at Sandwich Bay, 22 

Lake Abitibi, Quebec, nesting, 60, 61 

Lake Champlain region, occurrence in, 

Lake Erie, flight over, 128; migration 
route between L. Huron and, 80: 
nesting along shores of, 41 

Lake George region, food in, 95 

Lake Huron, migration route between 
Lake Erie and, 80; occurrence 
around, 54 

Lake Kenogamissi, 56; last pigeon at, 

Lake of the Woods, nesting in region of, 
59; occurrence in region of, 54 

Lake Ontario, flight over, 19, 63, 78, 
80, 119; migration route around 
eastern end of, 80 

Lake Ouinipique. See Lake Winnipeg. 

Lake St. Clair, occurrence around, 54 

_ ©... 

INDEX 179 

Lake St. John region, Quebec, occur- 
rence in, 60 

Lake Scugog, last pigeon in region of, 

Lake Simcoe, arrival at, 89 

Lake Superior, migration flights to 
north and east of, 59; occurrence 
around, 54; occurrence at Slate 
Island, 59 

Lake Timiskaming, Quebec, nesting in 
region of, 60 

Lake Winnipeg, 51, 63 

Lambton county, daily flight, 94; last 
pigeons, 132, 1386; marketing pigeons, 
110; migration flight, 69; nesting, 34 

Last appearances in Ontario, 132-137 

Leeds county, migration, 69 

Legends, Indian, 17 

Legislation, 147; trap shooting, 116 

Lennox and Addington county, last 
pigeons, 134; migration flight, 69; 
nesting, 34 

Lincoln county, 19; arrival, 89; migra- 
tion flight, 20, 69-71; nesting, 34, 47; 
netting pigeons, 110, 111, 127; 
occurrence, 54 

Long Lac, last pigeons in region of, 183 

Mackenzie District, pigeons in, 24 

Manitoba, nesting, 37; occurrence at 
Ft. Churchill, 24; Pigeon. Lake, 
Point and River, 63 

Manitoulin Island, arrival, 90; last 
pigeons, 1383; occurrence, 54; speci- 
men from, 150; spring flight over, 
59, 71, 91 

Market hunters, 109; as element of 
destruction, 143-144; in Canada from 
U.S., 111; numbers of, 144; wages 
of, 109 

Marketing of pigeons, 109-112, 143-144 

Massachusetts, 140; legislation, 147; 
pigeons sold at Boston, 106 

Mattagami River, Cochrane District, 
nesting along, 60-61; spring arrival, 

McKean county, Pennsylvania, nest- 
ing, 44 

Medicinal uses of pigeons, 108 

Metis, Quebec, occurrence, 22 

Michigan, 140; last pigeons, 136, 137; 
legislation, 147; marketing pigeons, 
143; nesting, 46 

Middlesex county, 100; last pigeons, 
132, 134, 135, 187; marketing pig- 
eons, 110; migration flight, 71; nest- 
ing, 34, 134; netting pigeons, 127; 
roosts, 110; sale price of pigeons from, 
110; specimen from, 150, 152 

Migration, 63-92: in Northern Ontario, 

Mimico, meaning of, 62 

Minimum of various species, 138 

Minnesota, pigeons in, 144 

Moose Factory, last pigeons, 135; nest- 
ing, 28, 60, 61, 141; northern limit 
of nesting in Ontario, 62 

Moose Fort. See Moose Factory. 

Mourning dove, 24; alternate brooding, 
50; nest similar to passenger pigeon, 
49; passenger pigeon compared with, 

Mud, as food, 94, 101 

Muskoka District, last pigeons, 135; 
nesting, 35; occurrence, 55 

Nelson River, Manitoba, pigeons on, 
24, 60 

Nesting, 25-51; accessibility of colonies 
as an element of destruction, 142; 
clearing of land and, 45, 139-141; 
concentration of colonies, 45; decline 
in size of colonies, 43; description of 
colonies in Ontario, 47-48, 162, 170; 
distribution of colonies in North 
America, 44; distribution of colonies 
in Ontario, 25, 44, 59-62; growth of 
colonies, 51; in Northern Ontario 
and extermination, 141; in small 
numbers, 44; in swamps, 45; last 
large nesting in Ontario, 43; molesta- 
tion of, 51, 144; size of colonies, 
42, 43 

Nesting habits, 49-51; effect of short 
summer on, 141 

Nesting sites, choice of, 45; growth of, 
51; new site for second brood, 55; 
used as roosts, 47; use of swamps as, 
45; used more than one year, 47 

Nets, described, 124, 126 


Netting pigeons, description of meth- 
ods, 124-127, 162 

New Brunswick, pigeons in, 16 

New Hampshire, trap shooting pro- 
hibited in, 116 

New York, pigeons shipped from 
Ontario to, 110 

New York State, 140; daily flight, 92; 
nesting, 82, 113; trap shooting, 
114, 116 

Niagara district, 19; arrival, 89; as 
migration route, 80; concentration 
of nesting colonies, 44-45; fall 
migration, 83; last pigeons, 132, 133; 
migration flight, 20, 71; occurrence, 

‘“‘Nipigon Country’’, boundaries of, 51; 
occurrence, 51, 55 

Nipigon, nesting, 38, 59 

Norfolk county, migration flight, 72; 
nesting, 35; netting pigeons, 19; 
occurrence, 19, 55 

North America, distribution of nesting 
pigeons, 44; range of passenger 
pigeons, 14 

Northumberland county, last pigeons, 
133; migration flight, 72; nesting, 35; 
occurrence, 55; specimens from, 150; 
trapping pigeons, 128 

Occurrence, 51-58; in winter, 92 

Ohio, 140; legislation, 147; occurrence, 
114; trap shooting, 114 

Ontario county, last pigeons, 134, 135; 
migration flight, 72; nesting, 35; 
netting pigeons, 127; specimens from, 

Optimum of species, 138 

Origin of Ectopistes, 14 

Oxford county, migration flight, 73, 
166; nesting, 36; prehistoric village 
site, 107; shooting pigeons, 166; 
size of nesting colony, 42; specimen 
from, 150; trapping pigeons, 128 

Parry Sound District, nesting, 36, 48, 
44, 59; occurrence, 55, 59; Omemea 
Island, 62 

Peel county, nesting, 36 

Pennsylvania, 140; food in, 96, 100; 


nesting, 44, 144; occurrence in 
winter, 92; persecution of pigeons, 82 

Perth county, arrival, 89; last pigeons, 
134; migration flight, 73; nesting, 36; 
occurrence, 55; specimen from, 151 

Peterborough county, arrival, 89; daily 
flight, 94-95; migration flight, 73; 
nesting, 36; occurrence, 55; Pigeon 
Lake, 62; specimens from, 151 

Plants named for passenger pigeons, 

Points des Monts, Quebec, occurrence, 

Prescott county, occurrence, 56, 96; 
shooting pigeons, 122 

Prince Edward county, daily flight, 94; 
migration flight, 73; nesting, 36; 
netting pigeons, 127; specimen from, 

Quebec Province, legislation, 147; 
marketing pigeons at Quebec City, 
106, 162; nesting, 22, 60, 61; north- 
ern boundary of pigeons in, 22; 
occurrence, 22, 60 

Rainy River District, 59, 140; nesting, 

Range of Ectopistes, 14, 22, 59-62 

Relationship of pigeons, 13 

Renfrew county, last pigeons, 135; 
migration flight, 73; nesting, 37; 
occurrence, 56 

Rhode Island, trap shooting, 116 

‘‘Rookeries”’, 26 

Roosting habits, 47, 139 

Roosts, 47, 48, 82, 95, 110, 139, 144 

Sainte Anne des Monts, Quebec, 
occurrence, 22 

Salt, as food, 96, 101; as bait, 126 

Sandwich Bay, Labrador, occurrence, 

Saskatchewan, pigeons on the Swan 
River, 102 

Scotland, pigeon in Fifeshire, 24 

Scott county, Indiana, roost in, 47 

Severn. See Fort Severn. 

Shooting pigeons, 119, 122, 164, 166, 
167, 169; as a sport, 112; trap shoot- 
ing, 113-118; with cannon, 119 


Simcoe county, 166; arrival, 89; daily 
flight, 94; last pigeons, 134, 135, 137; 
marketing pigeons, 110; migration 
flight, 74; nesting, 37, 45, 46; roost, 
110, 166; snaring pigeons, 128; 
specimens from, 151 

Smokey Falls, Cochrane District, nest- 
ing, 28, 61 

Snaring pigeons, 119, 128 

Sudbury District, last pigeons, 136; 
nesting, 38, 60; occurrence, 56; 
Pigeon Lake, 62 

Synonyms for passenger pigeon, Ome- 
mea, 62; Omeme(e), 62; Omemewog, 
62; Omimi, 62; Tourte, 106; Tour- 
terelle, 17; Turtle-dove, 15, 16; 
wild pigeon, 19; wood-pigeon, foot- 
note, 24 

Tennessee, pigeons in Pleistocene de- 
posits of, 15 

Thunder Bay District, 51, 59, 62; last 
pigeons, nesting, 38, 59; occurrence, 
56, 59 

Timiskaming District, 100, 120; arrival, 
90; occurrence, 57; pigeons destruc- 
tive to crops, 60 

Toronto. See York county. 

Tourte, 106 

Tourterelle, 17 

Trap shooting, 113-118 

Trapping pigeons, 127 

Turtle-dove, 15, 16 

United States, contemporaneous nest- 
ing in Canada and, 44; marketing 
pigeons, 109; sale price of pigeons, 
112; trap shooting, 113-117 

Variation in numbers, 129 
Vermont, 140; legislation, 147 


Victoria county, 19; arrival, 89; choice 
of nesting site, 46; daily flight, 94; 
feathers shipped from, 108; last 
pigeons, 135; migration flight, 74; 
nesting, 38, 44, 145; netting pigeons, 
108, 111, 127; occurrence, 57; Pigeon 
River, 62 

Waterloo county, nesting, 38; netting 
pigeons, 127 

Weather, as destructive agent, 141, 
142; effect on incubation, 49; effect 
on migration, 88; effect on number 
of broods, 50 

Welland county, arrival, 90; daily 
flight, 94; food in, 48; last pigeons, 
132, 133; migration flight, 74; nest- 
ing, 38, 44, 45, 47; netting pigeons, 
111, 126, 127; roosts, 48; shooting 
pigeons, 112; spring arrival, 48, 90 

Wellington county, last pigeons, 133, 
134; migration flight, 75; nesting, 39; 
occurrence, 57 

Wentworth county, 19; last pigeons, 
135, 136; migration flight, 75; nest- 
ing, 40; specimen from, 151, 152 

Wisconsin, nesting, 44, 144 

Wood-pigeon, footnote, 24 

York county, arrival, 88, 89, 90; catch- 
ing pigeons near Stouffville, 128; 
daily flight, 94; last pigeons, 133, 134, 
136, 137; marketing pigeons at 
Toronto, 111; migration at Toronto, 
76-79, 85, 88, 89; nesting, 40, 45, 48; 
netting pigeons, 125, 127; occurrence 
in winter, 92; shooting pigeons, 120, 
122; specimens from, 151, 152; trap 
shooting at Toronto, 117 

York Fort (York Factory), occurrence, 

24, 61 


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